A Canadian antiques dealer who purchased rhinoceros horns in New York and tried to smuggle them to his country was sentenced to two and a half years in a US prison on Wednesday.
Xiao Ju “Tony” Guan, a resident of the Canadian province of British Columbia, was arrested in New York in March after he bought two black rhinoceros horns for US$45,000 from undercover US Fish and Wildlife special agents, and then arranging to ship them to Point Roberts, Washington, near the Canadian border, Reuters reported.
Guan labeled a box containing the horns as “handicrafts” worth just US$200.
He was indicted in July and charged with conspiracy to smuggle rhino horns and sculptures made from elephant ivory and coral from various US auction houses to Canada.
He pleaded guilty only to trying to smuggle the rhino horns, and the conspiracy charge was later dropped.
The sentence, handed down by US District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan, was significantly more than the 10 months of time served sought by Guan’s lawyers, but a modest reduction from the three years and one month called for by prosecutors and federal sentencing guidelines, the news agency said.
Guan, speaking through a Mandarin interpreter just before being sentenced, pleaded for lenience, saying he had already lost his business and was cut off from his family.
“I will never make the same mistake again,” he said.
Swain said she had considered Guan’s apparent remorse, as well as the “increased harshness” of the time he has already served in New York, where he is unable to communicate with guards or other inmates because of his language barrier.
She recommended he be transferred to a US prison near British Columbia so that his family can visit him.
However, Swain said a lengthy custodial sentence was warranted by the seriousness of his crime.
“There is a significant crisis situation of endangered species poaching,” she said, adding that Guan “helped feed a hot market for these goods”.
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