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Malaysian wildlife trafficker extradited

Malaysian wildlife trafficker extradited

A Malaysian man arrested in Bangkok in June for alleged wildlife trafficking has been extradited to the United States.

Teo Boon Ching, 57, was taken to Suvarnabhumi airport on Friday night and put on a flight to the US.

The Malaysian suspect was arrested at a hotel on Pradit Manutham Road in Wang Thonglang district of Bangkok on June 29.

He was wanted on a warrant issued by the Criminal Court for colluding in wildlife trafficking and money laundering, said Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau.

Mr Teo had been sought by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for his involvement in a worldwide network of illicit trade in rhinoceros horn, elephant tusks and endangered wild African animals, and for laundering money for wildlife traffickers.

Fish and Wildlife officials worked with Thai police officials from the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division, the Foreign Affairs Division and the Immigration Bureau to pursue the case. 

The United States on Friday announced sanctions against Mr Teo and related parties.

In a statement on its website, the US Treasury Department said that Mr Teo, his alleged trafficking organisation and the Malaysian firm Sunrise Greenland Sdn Bhd engaged in the “cruel trafficking of endangered and threatened wildlife and the products of brutal poaching”.

Mr Teo specialises in the transport of rhino horn, ivory and pangolins — also known as scaly anteaters — from Africa, using routes through Malaysia and Laos to consumers in Vietnam and China, the statement said.

He faces one count of conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking and two counts of money laundering in the United States. The money laundering charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and the trafficking conspiracy charge carries a maximum of five years imprisonment, the statement said.

The Justice Department has accused Mr Teo of participating in a conspiracy to traffic more than 70 kilogrammes of rhinoceros horns valued at more than $725,000, which involved poaching several animals from the endangered species, and laundering the proceeds.

He is said to have led a transnational criminal enterprise based in Asia with significant operations in Malaysia and Thailand. Their activities included poaching and international trafficking and smuggling of rhinoceros horns, the Justice Department said.

Seizures of pangolin scales increased tenfold between 2014 and 2018, according to the United Nations’ 2020 World Wildlife Crime Report.

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