The US Fish & Wildlife Service has brought a series of prosecutions as part of Operation Crash, a nationwide crackdown on cross-border trafficking in rhinoceros horn works of art.

While it is legal to sell 'worked' rhino horn within the US, export permits will now only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

Qiang 'Jeffrey' Wang, 34, a New York antiques dealer, pleaded guilty to violating wildlife trafficking laws in a Manhattan federal court on August 7. According to court records, between approximately January 2011 and February 2013, when he was arrested, Wang conspired with at least two Chinese nationals to smuggle rhinoceros horn libation cups and elephant ivory carvings out of the US without the necessary USFWS approval and valid CITES export permits.

Wang (who spent $1,159,500 on three libation cups at an auction in Manhattan in September 2011) used the US Postal Service and other mail services to send packages from New York to Hong Kong and China, making false customs declarations to conceal their true contents. He is due to be sentenced on October 25.

Sting Operation

Two other Chinese nationals face similar charges following a sting operation conducted by the USFWS at the Original Miami Beach Antiques Show - also in February. Zhefei Li purchased rhino horn from an undercover agent, conceding he paid bribes to Chinese customs to move them into the country, while his business associate Shusen Wei, at the fair to buy rhino horn, ivory and jade works of art, was arrested at JFK airport en route to China having previously purchased two libation cups from Li for $200,000 and $190,000.

In February 2013, Manhattan antiques dealer David Hausman was given a six-month jail term followed by one year of supervised release for his role in trafficking.