PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian has been sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment in the United States over his role in the trafficking of some 219kg of rhinoceros horns worth an estimated US$2.1 million (about RM9.8 million).
US district judge Paul A Crotty meted out the sentence on Teo Boon Ching, 58, who is also known as “Zhang”, “Datuk Seri” as well as “Godfather”, after he pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking.
US attorney for the southern district of New York Damian Williams said Teo was extradited from Thailand while several others were also extradited from several African countries.
“Teo was a member of a transnational criminal conspiracy engaged in the large-scale international trafficking and smuggling of rhinoceros horns to sell to foreign buyers, including buyers represented to be in Manhattan.
“Trade involving endangered or threatened species violates several US laws as well as international treaties implemented by certain US laws.
“During the course of the conspiracy and related conduct, Teo conspired to transport, distribute, sell, and smuggle approximately 219kg of rhinoceros horns from the poaching of numerous rhinoceros, having an estimated value of approximately US$2.1 million,” Williams said in a statement.
He said Teo met with an undercover agent several times to negotiate the sale of the horns, including in Malaysia.
Teo said he was acting as a middleman and told the individual that “as long as you have cash, I can give you the goods in one to two days”, according to Williams.
“In August 2019, the confidential source, at the direction of law enforcement, purchased 12 rhinoceros horns from Teo with money that Teo believed were the proceeds of other illegal wildlife trafficking and was in bank accounts in New York.
“These horns were delivered in a suitcase in Thailand by those working for the wildlife trafficking organisation. A US Fish and Wildlife Service forensics laboratory examined the horns and concluded that two pieces were black rhinoceros horns, and the other 10 pieces were white rhinoceros horns.
“Teo was arrested in Thailand on June 29, 2022, at the request of the US pursuant to a bilateral extradition treaty and was extradited to the US on Oct 7, 2022.”
Williams thanked the Thai government and authorities for its role in ensuring Teo’s arrest and extradition.