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Have you seen me: Red notice for suspected ivory trafficker

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Madi Conteh

 Courtesy of Interpol. March 2017

LYON, France – Interpol issued an internationally wanted persons Red Notice for a suspected ivory trafficker following the seizure of hundreds of pieces of elephant tusks in Thailand.

The Red Notice for Madi Conteh, a Gambian national, was published at the request of the Malawi authorities, where he is wanted on charges of ‘exporting government trophies without permit’. Conteh is suspected of concealing 330 kg of ivory pieces in a shipment falsely labeled as unprocessed gemstones sent from Malawi and seized in Bangkok in early March.

Due to heightened trafficking concerns following the recovery of illegal ivory in a similar shipment from Africa in 2016, customs authorities conducted additional checks of the cargo and discovered 442 pieces of ivory worth around USD 500,000 concealed in several containers.

Another Gambian national was arrested in Bangkok when he attempted to pick up the shipment containing the trafficked ivory. The two are suspected to be part of an ivory trafficking ring involved in smuggling elephant tusks from Africa to Asia.

Interpol’s Environmental Security unit is supporting the investigation through its Project Wisdom which assists member countries in combating the illegal trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn.

A new Interpol initiative launched in January targets traffickers in Asia sourcing wildlife from Africa, by providing a strengthened law enforcement response in source, transit and destination countries, particularly those linked to the illicit trade in ivory, rhinoceros horn and Asian big cat products.

Plea, charges in rhino horn cases

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This week, authorities charged one man in connection with trafficking rhino horns while another man pleaded to similar charges. Below are the Department of Justice releases on the cases:

New Hampshire Man Charged with Passing Fraudulent Documents in Connection with His Sale of Rhino Horns
Nov. 7, 2013

Ari B. Goldenberg, 46, of Milton, N.H., was charged today with trafficking in and making a false record for illegally selling a black rhinoceros head mount to an undercover U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service special agent.

The indictment is a result of a nationwide effort led by the FWS and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horns.

The indictment alleges that Goldenberg, seeking to profit from the sale of a black rhinoceros head mount he acquired for less than $1,000, illegally sold the mount to an undercover special agent of the FWS Office of Law Enforcement for $35,000. The indictment also charges Goldenberg with providing the undercover agent with a falsified receipt for the sale of the mount.

Irish National Pleads to Crimes Relating to Illegal Trafficking of Endangered Rhinoceros Horns
Nov. 5, 2013

Michael Slattery Jr., 25, an Irish national, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act in relation to illegal rhinoceros horn trafficking, announced Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice, and Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Slattery pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Under the terms of the plea agreement, any proceeds from the illegal trafficking that remain in the United States will be forfeited or put toward the criminal fine. Slattery is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 10, 2014.

In the plea agreement, Slattery admitted that he, along with others, traveled throughout the United States to illegally purchase and sell endangered rhinoceros horns. Slattery was arrested in September as part of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide, multi-agency crackdown on those involved in the black market trade of endangered rhinoceros horn.

According to the information, plea agreement and statements made during court proceedings:

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Big cats seized in Operation Predator

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INTERPOL operations in Asia lead to seizure of live tigers and other protected species

Dec. 5, 2012

LYON, France – The second and third phases of INTERPOL’s Operation Prey, targeting the illegal trade in wildlife and animal products, led to the seizure of 40 live tigers and tiger parts, along with other protected species and the arrest of more than a dozen individuals.

Carried out in September and October, Operation Prey II was conducted in Bangladesh, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, followed by Operation Prey III in Indonesia and Malaysia. Aside from tigers, authorities also seized pangolins, protected snakes and bushmeat.

Operation Prey is one of many initiatives under the framework of INTERPOL’s Project Predator.

With targeted Operation Prey enforcement actions, tiger range countries are better prepared to participate in future activities of Project Predator, INTERPOL officials said. This will be further strengthened by an upcoming training session in Nepal organized in collaboration with the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network and the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Kathmandu.

Due to the various uses of animals as status symbols or for their medicinal properties, many creatures are now on the brink of extinction. To avoid this irreversible situation, INTERPOL is calling for an adjustment in behaviour to restore the region’s economic, natural and social independence by stamping out demand and breaking the criminal supply chain of these illegal products.

Project Predator continues its work to protect the world’s wild tigers with the help of ongoing support from the US Agency for International Development and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.