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Canadian rhino horn smuggler pleads guilty in US court, jailed for 46 months

Canadian rhino horn smuggler pleads guilty in US court, jailed for 46 months

NEW YORK:  A 39 years old Canadian Tony Guan antiques dealer pleaded guilty to attempting to export black rhinoceros horns purchased in New York from undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents.

Xiao Ju “Tony” Guan, 39, pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to one of three charges against him as part of a plea deal to resolve a case U.S. authorities say stemmed from a crackdown on illegal trafficking in rhinoceros horns.

“I knew what I was doing was against the law,” Guan said through a Mandarin translator.

Prosecutors had previously accused Guan of participating in a conspiracy with several other individuals to smuggle rhino horns and sculptures made from elephant ivory and coral from various U.S. auction houses to Canada.

Prosecutors at the time of his indictment in July said Guan, who owned an antiques business in Richmond, British Columbia, would sometimes mail items directly to Canada with false paperwork and without the required declarations.

Other times, he would ship the items to Point Roberts, Washington, less than a mile from the border, use mislabeled boxes to deceive customs and border protection agents, and then take smuggled items to his business, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Guan was arrested in March after flying to New York to buy two black rhinoceros horns for $45,000 from undercover Fish and Wildlife special agents, and then arranging to ship them to Point Roberts.

Guan labeled a box containing the horns as “handicrafts” worth just $200. The indictment said an unnamed co-conspirator told the agents they had people who would take the horns back to Canada.

During  court hearing, Guan pleaded guilty only to a charge related to the sting operation, saying he knew the transport of horns was “heavily regulated” by the United States and that he did not intend to get permits to ship them.

He faces 30 to 46 months in prison under stipulated sentencing guidelines included in his plea agreement.

Guan also agreed to forfeit items seized during a search by Canadian authorities of his antiques business.