The United States on Friday targeted an alleged Malaysian wildlife smuggler and what officials described as his transnational criminal organization to impose financial penalties related to the illegal shipment of rhino horn, ivory and other specimens.
The Treasury said Malaysian national Teo Boon Cheng, the alleged human smuggling organization and Malaysian company Sunrise Greenland Sdn. Bhd. Engaging in the “brutal trade of endangered and endangered wildlife and poached products.”
The United States said Teo specializes in transporting rhinoceros horn, ivory and scaly anteaters – also known as scaly anteaters – from Africa, using routes through Malaysia and Laos to consumers in Vietnam and China.
Teo was arrested in Thailand on June 29 and extradited to the United States on Friday, according to a joint statement from U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams and Assistant Director of U.S. Law Enforcement Office of Fish and Wildlife Edward J. beauty.
Teo, 57, faces one count of conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking and two counts of money laundering. The statement explained that the penalty for money laundering is up to 20 years in prison, while the penalty for conspiracy in human trafficking is up to a maximum of five years in prison.
It was not immediately clear if a US attorney representing Teo could comment on his behalf.
The Department of Justice charged Teo with participating in a plot to traffic more than 70 kilograms (154 pounds) of rhino horn valued at more than $725,000, which included the illegal poaching of several animals of endangered species, and the laundering of proceeds.
Teo led a transnational criminal enterprise based in Asia with significant operations in Malaysia and Thailand. The Justice Department said their activities included poaching, international trafficking and rhino horn smuggling.
Teo allegedly served as a specialized smuggler, moving rhino horns from poaching operations largely concentrated in Africa to clients primarily in Asia. Authorities said Teo also claimed to be able to ship rhino horns to the United States.
Among other things, the sanctions prevent Teo and others from accessing any property or financial assets held in the United States and prevent U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with them.
The Associated Press was not immediately able to contact Sunrise Greenland for comment. The company’s headquarters is located in the southern Malaysian state of Johor near Singapore.
Pangolin Scales Spells 10-fold increase Between 2014 and 2018, according to the 2020 United Nations Wildlife Crime Report.
The report said criminals tend to exploit legislative and enforcement loopholes in some countries in an attempt to hide the illegal trade.
“This is the case, for example, with pangolin-wide traders choosing to store their stock in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as opposed to other source countries due to the perception of a lower interdiction capacity,” the UN said.
Wildlife trafficking groups perpetuate corruption and illicit financing, said Brian E. Nelson, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and illicit finance.
“The United States considers wildlife trafficking not only a critical conservation concern, but also a threat to global security,” Nelson said.
The Treasury worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the State Department, and the government of Thailand to uncover the issue.
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