Ning Qiu, an appraiser of Asian art based in Texas pleaded guilty to taking part in smuggling rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory to China in U.S. federal court on Tuesday, Voice of America reports. He could be sentenced for more than two years in prison and fined $150,000 for his crimes. Qiu admitted to authorities that he had a hand in helping the ringleader, Zhifei Li, who was sentenced to almost six years in prison last month, obtain the ivory and horns. The illegal pieces were then smuggled to Hong Kong where they were used to produce fake antiques.
U.S. Attorney John Malcolm Bales comments that the smuggling scheme was purely greed-driven, and did not have any interest in serving Asian cultural or medicinal practices. (Powdered rhino horn is believed to have health benefits by some in China.) He further states that the organized crime had a hand in depleting endangered rhino and elephant populations.
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