Ivory trafficking charges laid in U.S. against Richmond antique dealer
Bao Antiques owner Xiao Ju (Tony) Guan accused of smuggling rhino horns and elephant ivory
Xiao Ju (Tony) Guan, a Richmond, B.C., man has been charged in the United States with smuggling more than half a million dollars' worth of rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory and coral from the U.S. into Canada.
Court documents obtained by CBC News detail how Environment Canada sent a team of undercover officers to investigate Guan, the owner of Bao Antiques in Richmond.
"During this walk-through of the store I observed five carved ivory statues in a display case," said wildlife officer Max McDonald, cited in information provided to obtain a search warrant.
"I also observed two partial ivory tusks, one complete tusk located on a table, and an ivory bracelet located in a display case near the cash register."
The Environment Canada investigation began with a tip from a U.S. official suggesting an African rhino horn and other items from an online auction house in Florida were sold to Bao Antiques.
Canadian investigators allegedly found similar items on the dealership's website.
An Environment Canada intelligence analyst cited in the court documents says investigators "saw photographs of two elephant ivory carvings and one rhinoceros horn carving listed among the in-store items."
The items Guan allegedly smuggled are protected under an international treaty that requires the exporter to possess a valid permit.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES, aims to protect fish, wildlife and plants that are or could become extinct owing to market demand.
Investigators said they couldn't find any record of either Guan or any of his businesses requesting or being granted CITES permits.
Charged in the U.S.
In the United States, Guan is accused of buying the artifacts online through auction houses and galleries located in New York, Ohio, Florida, Iowa and California.
He then allegedly shipped the packages to Point Roberts, Wash. He is also accused of using false shipping labels and falsifying customs declarations forms to conceal the true contents and value of the packages.
In one deal, he allegedly labelled a rhinoceros horn as a "Wooden Horn" and undervalued the items in the package, declaring the total as $887.50 when they were allegedly purchased for $37,789.50.
According to the indictment, Guan allegedly worked with four co-conspirators who assisted him in the purchase and smuggling of the items by acting as his English interpreter or by negotiating transactions or wiring funds.
Guan is charged in the U.S. with attempted smuggling, falsifying wildlife records and conspiracy. If convicted he could face up to 10 years in prison.
None of the allegations above have been proven in court.