US, February 2012—An 18 month long investigation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service has led to the arrest of seven people accused of being part of an international rhino horn smuggling ring and the confiscation of gold ingots and cash each valued at $1 million.
The seven detained were apprehended in California, New Jersey, New York and Texas as part of Operation Crash. Crash is a collective noun for rhinos.
Those arrested will now face a number of charges including trafficking of endangered species and conspiracy.
20 rhino horns were seized during the bust, as well as goods bought with funds from the sale of smuggled horns, including Rolex watches and diamonds.
A total of 37 rhino horns had previously been intercepted by officials monitoring the smuggling ring.
One of the accused, an exotic animals auction house owner, was stopped with his family at Los Angeles airport with $337,000 in their possession.
Another, a Chinese national, is suspected of overseeing the shipment of dozens of rhino horns from the US to China in recent years.
Rhino horns are in huge demand in parts of Asia, including Vietnam and China for their supposed medicinal properties. Many of those using rhino in Vietnam do so as a supposed hangover cure.