A retired RCMP officer, already convicted and sentenced in New Brunswick for smuggling narwhal tusks across the border, has been extradited to the United States to face related money-laundering charges in Maine.
Gregory Logan, 58, of Woodmans Point, N.B., was ordered Wednesday by a U.S. judge to be held in custody pending his trial, scheduled for May 3 in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
Prosecutors allege Logan smuggled at least 250 narwhal tusks worth more than $2 million US into the United States by hiding them in false compartments in his vehicle, starting in 2000, when he was still a Mountie.
They allege Logan sold the ivory tusks to collectors, then laundered the proceeds by having the money transferred out of the United States in order to further the smuggling conspiracy.
If convicted, Logan could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 US.
"As this case shows, wildlife trafficking can involve millions in illegal transactions, compounding the damage it does to the wealth and diversity of life on our planet," Assistant Attorney General John Cruden, of the Justice Department's environment and natural resource's division, said in a statement.
"By pursuing the criminal financial transactions that flow from trafficking, we are making [it] a less attractive and more costly enterprise."
Narwhals, medium-sized whales that live year-round in the Arctic, are a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
It is illegal to import narwhals, or their parts, into the United States without a permit and any such importation must be declared to U.S. Customs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Male narwhals, dubbed unicorns of the sea, have a spiraled tusk, which is actually a tooth, that protrudes up to three metres from its upper jaw. The tusks, used for carvings and jewelry, can fetch up to $100 Cdn per inch.
Fined $385K for illegal export
Logan, who was once posted in Nunavut, pleaded guilty in New Brunswick court in October 2013 to seven counts of illegal export of narwhal tusks, under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act.
He was fined $385,000 and given an eight-month conditional sentence that included four months of house arrest — the stiffest penalty to date under the WAPPRIITA, officials had said.
Under the terms of his extradition, U.S. prosecutors dropped their smuggling charges against him and are limiting their case to conspiracy to launder money and money laundering.
Logan's defence had unsuccessfully appealed his extradition order to the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing Logan was unaware when he pleaded guilty to the offences in New Brunswick that he could also face charges in the U.S.
Brian Greenspan told CBC News on March 10 that he planned to write to the federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to ask her to intervene.
Logan, who had a 25-year career with the RCMP before retiring in 2003, was extradited the following day.
Justice officials declined to confirm whether the minister received a request from Greenspan.
"Any such request would be confidential in nature," spokesman Ian McLeod stated in an email to CBC News.
"The minister no longer has jurisdiction to intervene now that Mr. Logan has been surrendered," said McLeod.
Justice Canada will not be involved in the U.S. proceedings, other than to ensure the prosecution does not exceed the scope of the surrender order, he added.
Greenspan could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
One of Logan's co-accused, Andrew Zarauskas, of Union, New Jersey, was convicted and sentenced to 33 months in prison. Another co-accused, Jay Conrad, of Lakeland, Tennessee, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.