foreign national convicted of money laundering to promote turtle trafficking | Takeover bid

A Chinese citizen was sentenced today to 38 months in prison and one year of supervised release on a federal money laundering conviction.

Kang Juntao, 25, of Hangzhou City, China, had previously pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Camden, New Jersey, to funding a nationwide network of individuals who smuggled at least 1 500 protected turtles, valued at over $ 2,250,000, from the United States. in Hong Kong. The court also ordered Kang to pay a fine of $ 10,000, equivalent to the total assets he held in the United States.

From June 12, 2017 to at least December 3, 2018, Kang recruited a network of poachers, shippers and middlemen to illegally obtain and export turtles. He sent money through American banks, including one in New Jersey, to pay for the turtles and their shipments. He arranged for the turtles to be illegally sold in the Chinese pet market for thousands of dollars each.

Kang had never entered the United States, but US money laundering law grants jurisdiction when a person outside the country spends more than $ 10,000 through the US financial system to promote illegal activity. specified, such as wildlife trafficking.

Following the United States’ request for provisional arrest for extradition, Royal Malaysian Police arrested Kang on his way to Kuala Lumpur on January 23, 2019. Kang was extradited to the United States for be tried in the District of New Jersey in December 2020 in accordance with the extradition treaty between the governments of the United States and Malaysia.

“The Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute those who fund and profit from illegal wildlife trafficking, even if they do so from overseas,” said Deputy Attorney General Todd Kim of the Environment Division and of the natural resources of the Ministry of Justice.

“The extradition of a foreign national who had never set foot on American soil for funding a turtle trafficking ring in the United States sends an important message: those who exploit endangered wildlife for profit will be brought to justice, ”said Deputy Director Edward Grace for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement. “This investigation illustrates the global reach of the Law Enforcement Service’s Office made possible by close coordination with partners, including the Government of Malaysia, and our determination to stop international wildlife trafficking from the source. to the consumer. “

The United States, Malaysia, China and about 181 other countries are signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is an international treaty that restricts trade in species that may be threatened with extinction.

Kang trafficked five species of treaty protected turtles. The Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene caroline caroline), Florida box turtle (Terrapene caroline bauri) and the Gulf Coast Box Turtle (Terrapene caroline major) are subspecies of the common box turtle (Terrapene caroline) and have been listed in CITES since 1995. The spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) is a semi-aquatic turtle listed in CITES since 2013. The wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) has been protected by CITES since 1992. Turtles are valued on average between $ 650 and $ 2,500 each in the Asian market. Female turtles with rare markings have been sold for up to $ 20,000.

Kang sent money through PayPal, credit cards, or bank transfers to the United States to purchase turtles from sellers advertising on social media or reptile trade websites. These suppliers then shipped the turtles to intermediaries in five different states. The intermediaries were usually Chinese citizens who entered the country on student visas. Kang paid and asked these middlemen to repackage the turtles in boxes with fake labels for smuggling to Hong Kong. The turtles were inhumanely tied with duct tape and placed in socks so as not to alert customs authorities. Neither Kang nor his associates have declared the turtles to US or Chinese customs or obtained the required CITES permits.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim made the announcement.

The government is represented by prosecutors Ryan Connors and Lauren Steele of the Environmental Crimes Section. The USFWS conducted the investigation.

The Office of International Affairs of the Department of Justice, Malaysia’s Attaché for Investigations Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs of the United States, the Regional Security Bureau, the Diplomatic Security Bureau, the United States Department of State and the Consular Section of the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the Office of the Attorney General of Malaysia, and the Royal Malaysian Police provided invaluable assistance in supporting the extradition and coordinating Kang’s return to the United States.

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