A Chinese citizen, the admitted ringleader of an international smuggling operation that trafficked in $4.5 million worth of rhinoceros horns, ivory cups and trinkets, pleaded guilty on Thursday in federal court in New Jersey, prosecutors said.
Zhifei Li, 29, said he had sold 30 raw rhino horns for as much as $17,500 each to Chinese factories that carve them into cups that are thought to improve health, according to federal prosecutors.
“The brutality of animal poaching, wherever it occurs, feeds the demand of a multibillion-dollar illegal international market,” said Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, at a press conference. “Zhifei Li’s conviction is a warning to those who would be lured by the profits of dealing in cruelty.”
Among the horns sold, 13 were from black rhinos, which are critically endangered and have a population of less than 5,000, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s…
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