On September 22, 2023, the U.S. Embassy in Thailand published a news article regarding the verdict of the U.S. court against a Malaysian who was extradited to the United States from Thailand after being accused of trafficking hundreds of kilograms of rhinoceros horns.
NEW YORK – Teo Boon Ching, aka Zhang, Dato Sri, and Godfather, 58 of Malaysia, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiring to traffic hundreds of kilograms of rhinoceros horns worth millions of dollars that involved the illegal poaching of numerous rhinoceros, an endangered wildlife species. The sentence was imposed on September 19, 2023 by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty of the Southern District of New York.
Ching, who was extradited from Thailand, is the sixth large-scale wildlife trafficker sentenced in cases recently brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which also involved the extradition of multiple individuals from several countries in Africa. Ching and his associated entities were previously sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) pursuant to E.O. 13581, as amended.
“Wildlife trafficking is a serious threat to the natural resources and the ecological heritage shared by communities across the globe, enriching poachers responsible for the senseless illegal slaughter of numerous endangered rhinoceros and furthering the market for these illicit products,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York.
“The substantial sentence shows the resolve of this Office to use every tool at our disposal to ensure the protection of endangered species.”
According to the charging and other documents filed in the case, as well as statements made in court proceedings, Ching was a member of a transnational criminal conspiracy engaged in the large-scale international trafficking and smuggling of rhinoceros horns to sell to foreign buyers, including buyers represented to be in Manhattan.
Trade involving endangered or threatened species violates several U.S. laws as well as international treaties implemented by certain U.S. laws.
During the course of the conspiracy and related conduct, Ching conspired to transport, distribute, sell and smuggle at least approximately 219 kilograms of rhinoceros horns resulting from the poaching of numerous rhinoceros and having an estimated value of at least approximately $2.1 million.
On a number of occasions, Ching met with a confidential source to negotiate the sale of rhinoceros horns. For example, on July 17 and 18, 2019, the confidential source met with Ching in Malaysia. During those meetings, Ching stated that he served as a “middleman” — one who acquires rhinoceros horns poached by co-conspirators in Africa and ships them to customers around the world for a per-kilogram fee.
He also promised the confidential source “as long as you have cash, I can give you the goods in 1-2 days.” During their communications, CHING sent the confidential source numerous photographs of rhinoceros horns that Ching had available for sale and shipment, including the following:
In August 2019, the confidential source, at the direction of law enforcement, purchased 12 rhinoceros horns from Ching with money that Ching believed were the proceeds of other illegal wildlife trafficking and was in bank accounts in New York. These horns were delivered in a suitcase in Thailand by those working for the wildlife trafficking organization.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forensics laboratory examined the rhinoceros horns and concluded that two horn pieces were black rhinoceros horns, and the other 10 pieces were white rhinoceros horns. Pictures of white and black rhinoceros are depicted below:
A picture of the 12 rhinoceros horns that Ching arranged to be sold to law enforcement through the confidential source and had delivered are depicted below:
Ching was arrested in Thailand on June 29, 2022, at the request of the United States pursuant to a bilateral extradition treaty and was extradited to the United States on October 7, 2022.
Ching pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking.
U.S. Attorney Williams praised the outstanding work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, U.S. Attorney Williams thanked the Royal Thai Government for its assistance in the extradition of Ching to the United States and commended law enforcement authorities and conservation partners in Thailand, including the Office of the Attorney General and the Royal Thai Police, Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division. U.S. Attorney Williams also thanked the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs for providing substantial assistance in securing the arrest and extradition of Ching.