A Kenyan man was extradited to the United States and was federally charged with trafficking illegal ivory and rhino horn as well as money laundering and drug dealing, BBC News reported.
Mansur Mohamed Surur, 60, was arrested last year in Mombasa, Kenya, and has been recently extradited to New York City where he faced a judge and was formally charged, BBC News reported. Prosecutors in New York say Surur was part of an "international conspiracy" responsible for the killing of more than 100 elephants and dozens of rhinos, which amassed a street value of more than estimated $7.4 million according to BBC News.
Surur has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, according to the Associated Press. He faces a 35-year sentence if convicted on the charges
Two co-defendants were brought to the United States last spring to face charges, the Associated Press said. A fourth man allegedly involved in the operation is still at large and remains fugitive, US Department of Justice said. The four men, including, Surur, are accused of orchestrating illegal ivory sales with buyers in Manhattan and Asia, BBC News reported.
Prosecutors say that between 2012 and 2019 Surur allegedly conspired with other poachers and smugglers in the multi-million dollar scheme, which also included trafficking heroin in the New York City area, the New York Post reported.
“The enterprise is allegedly responsible for the illegal slaughter of dozens of rhinos and more than 100 elephants, both endangered species,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement obtained by the New York Post Monday.
The network that Surur allegedly belonged to operated out of is based in Uganda but had contacts and dealings in other African nations such as Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, and Tanzania, BBC News reported.
The National Resources Defense Council says that "more than a thousand rhinos and tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year to feed demand for ivory and rhino horn. The international trade in elephants, rhinos, and other species is the second-largest threat to wildlife after habitat loss. If the market continues to drive poaching, both rhinos and elephants could vanish from the wild as early as 2034."