23 July 2013
Czech authorities have seized 24 white rhino horns and charged 16 suspected members of an international ring smuggling the horns to Asia. Details of the seizure were released by the country’s customs department.
Customs and police officials revealed that the horns were worth approximately $5 million and were destined for Asia where they would fetch high prices on the illegal black market.
Police and customs officials said the criminal syndicates had links to ‘pseudo-hunting’ in South Africa. The gang managed to get around legal loopholes by employing proxy hunters who can get permission to legally shoot one rhino in South Africa and take the horn as a trophy, strictly for non-commercial purposes.
Concerns of Czech proxy hunters were reported by CITES earlier this year (see news article February 2013 Is the Czech Republic a new player in the illegal rhino horn trade?) when authorities became aware of an increase in hunting permit applications from other countries not historically associated with rhino trophy hunting including The Czech Republic and Poland.
Talking of the proxy hunters, customs officer Ales Hruby said “they were paid by the gang to hunt rhinos in the South African Republic bring the rhino horns as hunters’ trophies to the EU,”
The Czech authorities did not give the nationalities of the suspects.
The suspects face up to 8-years in prison if found guilty.