The smuggling of rhinoceros horns to China

By Christine Duhaime | January 22nd, 2017

The prosecution of wildlife smuggling is rare and especially if it involves a Canadian. But last year, Xiao Ju Gian, was sentenced in New York for 30 months incarceration for smuggling rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory and coral from the US into Vancouver, from which he abused the Canadian financial system.

Xiao Guan lived in Richmond, British Columbia and operated an antiques store called Bao Antique Ltd., from which he imported and sold smuggled goods. He also claimed to have an import business in Hong Kong. Over a one year period, he bought and smuggled illegally acquired wildlife with a value of over $500,000 in Ohio and Florida and sold the goods in China, after transporting them illegally, first to Vancouver. In one case, he bought one rhinoceros horn from the US for $30,000 and sold it to a Chinese foreign national who flew from China to Vancouver to buy it for $42,000. The Chinese foreign national then smuggled the rhinoceros horn out of Canada.

Guan was part of a sting operation in New York that involved the sale of rhinoceros horns to him by an undercover agent for $45,000 in 2014. As part of the undercover deal, Mr. Guan, who also lived in China, instructed his wife, Tie Jun Jian, in Richmond, British Columbia, to wire a $1,000 to the undercover agent in New York for a deposit. For SWIFT purposes, the wire transfer was noted as: “for a watch” in order to avoid scrutiny by the bank and law enforcement.

Guan then travelled to New York with an interpreter to buy the rhinoceros horns and paid the undercover agents $44,000 – 16,000 in cash in $100 bills and a cheque from the Bank of Montreal for $28,000 drawn from the account of a person named “Yichu Guan”.  When he purchased the horns, Guan informed the agents that he would locate a courier company to send them to Point Roberts and would cross the border from Canada to collect them at a later date.  After arranging for the shipping of the horns at UPS, Guan was arrested.

While he was arrested in New York, his business in Richmond was subject to a search warrant and law enforcement found 50,000 ecstasy pills, a scale and baggies (signs of illegal trafficking).

At sentencing, the Court learned that after his arrest, Guan lied to law enforcement on numerous occasions while being questioned such as:

  • The sting operation was the first time he bought rhinoceros horns;
  • He was in New York as a tourist;
  • He shipped the rhinoceros horns to avoid carrying them around New York;
  • He intended not to import the rhinoceros horns to Canada but rather was going to consign them in Seattle;
  • He did not know the activity was illegal;
  • He has no employees that helped him run the smuggling operation;
  • He did not use an address at Point Roberts to receive illegal goods.

Guan was prosecuted for organizing a wildlife smuggling enterprise which violated the laws of Canada and the US and inter alia, that involved falsifying customs documents in order to smuggle items and avoid paying taxes.

Guan agreed to forfeit to the US government, all of the wildlife seized from his Richmond store.

The Florida company, Estate Buyers Inc., that illegally sold smuggled rhinoceros horns and ivory to Guan was also prosecuted in the US and its owner was jailed for 3 years and fined $1.5 million for selling to Guan and selling to foreign nationals in China.

A year before Guan was arrested, a Chinese foreign national was prosecuted in Miami for illegally smuggling and selling rhinoceros horns from the US to China.

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