Teo Boon Ching has been accused of running a smuggling ring that funneled rhino horn and other products from Africa to clients in China and Vietnam.
Thai authorities have extradited to the United States a Malaysian national accused of orchestrating the large-scale trade in endangered wildlife products in Malaysia and Thailand. Teo Boon Ching, 57, was arrested in Thailand on June 29 for wildlife trafficking and money laundering, charges he will now face in the US.
Teo, known by the nicknames “Dato Sri” and “Godfather”, is alleged to sit at the center of a global wildlife trade network that funnels valuable endangered wildlife products from Africa to wealthy new consumers. in Vietnam and China. Among the main products trafficked are things like ivory, rhino horn and pangolin scales.
in a friday statement In announcing sanctions against Teo and his alleged smuggling organization, the US Treasury Department said he has engaged in “cruel trafficking in threatened and endangered wildlife and the products of brutal poaching.”
“During his two-decade involvement in the illegal wildlife trade, Teo Boon Ching claims to have transported several metric tons of rhino horn, ivory and pangolins,” the statement added. “Although Teo Boon Ching has been publicly linked to the illicit wildlife trade for years, he has evaded justice and continues to operate his illicit transportation business.”
Although he is now in US custody, the sanctions announced Friday are designed to deny Teo and others access to any property or financial assets in the United States. They will also prevent US companies and citizens from doing business with them. The Malaysian company Sunrise Greenland Sdn was also sanctioned. bhd
Teo’s arrest followed an undercover operation in which he conspired with an anonymous plant to “transport, distribute, sell, and smuggle at least approximately 73 kilograms of rhino horn,” with an estimated value of $725,472. according to a statement of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Ching has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and two counts of money laundering, which carries a sentence of maximum of 20 years in prison.
Along with the burgeoning trade in illegal narcotics, trafficking in rare and endangered animal products has flourished in the poorly policed borderlands of mainland Southeast Asia. The trigger for the trade has been the rise of large middle classes in China and, to a lesser extent, Vietnam, where rhino horn and pangolin scales are used in all sorts of healing tonics.
Southeast Asia has been a key link, due to both its proximity to China and flexible regulatory frameworks in particular regions. According to the Treasury Department, Teo’s smuggling networks “generally used routes through Malaysia and Laos.” The latter country in particular has become an increasingly important transshipment route for various illicit goods, particularly methamphetamines from eastern Myanmar, given its lax regulations, high levels of corruption, and porous borders with both Myanmar and China.
Teo’s extradition came when the Singapore authorities confiscated his biggest shipment ever of smuggled rhino horn this week, valued at about $830,000. In a statement, the Singapore National Parks Board said that 20 pieces of horn with a total weight of 34 kilograms were discovered in two bags at Singapore’s Changi Airport en route to Laos on October 4.