A US judge sentenced an extradited Liberian man to 63 months in prison for conspiring to trade millions of dollars in horns and ivory from endangered rhinos and elephants, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.
Moazu Kromah, a Ugandan resident, was extradited from the West African country to the United States in June 2019 and in March this year pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking and two counts of wildlife trafficking, the Office of the USA Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, said in a statement.
The illegal poaching of more than 35 rhinos and more than 100 elephants was part of the smuggling scheme.
Williams praised US District Judge Gregory H. Woods’ more than five-year sentence.
“Today’s ruling shows that those responsible for depleting the world’s populations of endangered and threatened animals protected by international treaties face serious consequences,” he said.
Kromah, 49, and accomplices had buyers in the United States and Southeast Asia, trading about 190 kilograms (nearly 420 pounds) of rhino horns and at least about 10 tons of elephant ivory from East African countries between about 2012 and 2019.
The estimated average retail value of the rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory was at least about $3.4 million and $4 million, respectively.
During the investigation, law enforcement officers intercepted several packages destined for Manhattan shoppers that contained rhino horns.
They hid some of the animal parts in works of art such as African masks and statues, New York investigators say.
Poaching is fueled by a seemingly insatiable demand for rhino horn in Asia, where people pay huge sums for a substance coveted as a traditional medicine made mostly of keratin, the same substance found in human nails.
Kromah is one of five men accused of being part of the criminal enterprise.
Kenyan Mansur Mohamed Surur was extradited to the United States last year and pleaded guilty to charges of human trafficking and drug trafficking, according to a June statement from Williams’ office.
Guinean Amara Cherif is also in US custody and pleaded guilty to the charges against him in April this year.
Co-defendants Badru Abdul Aziz Saleh and Abdi Hussein Ahmed were reportedly arrested.
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