Thai police arrested a Vietnamese citizen who they said had an international network that trafficked massive quantities of elephant ivory, rhinoceros horn and wildlife, threatening the existence of endangered species in Asia and Africa for years.
Boonchai Bach, 40, was arrested Friday in Nakhon Phanom, a province in northeastern Thailand bordering Laos, in connection with illegal trafficking of 14 African rhinoceros horns to Thailand in December, according to the Freeland Foundation. an anti-Traffic Group that has been tracking Boonchai and his family for years. The case, which involved $ 1 million in rhino horns, also involved a Thai official, a Chinese smuggler and a Vietnamese messenger, reported Associated Press .
"This arrest is significant for many reasons, confiscated items have a high value, and we can arrest the entire network involved, starting with the mail, the facilitator, the exporter," who planned to move the goods through the border between Thailand and Laos, "said Thai police colonel Chutrakul Yodmadee.
Boonchai has denied the accusations against him.
Thai authorities have been investigating his family for years, focusing on Boonchai in December, when Thai customs officials discovered rhinoceros horns hidden in a flight from Ethiopia, the flight carried Vietnamese and Chinese passengers, which raised suspicions among customs officials, according to the Freeland Foundation, after which a Thai airport official was arrested and admitted to work with a Chinese smuggler and a relative of Boonchai .The three are detained in a prison Thai
Freeland Foundation said the new evidence led to the arrest of Boonchai this week.
"The arrest spells hope for wildlife, we hope that Thailand, its neighboring countries" The counterparts in Africa will build on this arrest and tear Hydra completely, "said the group's founder, Steven Galster, referring to a network of suppliers and buyers throughout Asia.
The Bach family, with Boonchai as leader, led the illegal trafficking of exotic Asian and African fauna, including elephant ivory, rhinoceros horns, pangolins, tigers, lions and other species in At the risk of extinction, the main traders in Laos, Vietnam and China, according to the Freeland Foundation, also believe that the Bachs were the main supplier of Vixay Keosavang, a Laos wildlife trader named "Pablo Escobar of life trafficking". wild "in a story by the New York Times in 2013.
According to the authorities, the original leader of the traffic group of the Bach family was Bach Van Lim, Boonchai's older brother. In 2005, he transferred part of his authority to Boonchai, who operated the headquarters in Nakhon Phanom. The contraband was transported from there to Laos through the nearby Mekong River and transported to Vietnam and China, the Freeland Foundation said.
Boonchai could face up to four years in prison and a fine of 40,000 baht ($ 1,300), the AP reported. . The authorities could also accuse him of money laundering and violation of customs, crimes that could add a sentence of up to 10 more years.
Thai police have been cracking down on the country's ivory trade for years. Officials announced in July that they had seized more than 400 tusks and elephant fragments in only one case. [
"We have made serious efforts to prevent elephant ivory from being introduced of contraband in the country and sent to another country. " . . . If we prevent the ivory from being smuggled out of the country, we will destroy it. We have been able to effectively arrest more and more suspects with tangible results, "Vice Police Commissioner Gen. Chalermkiat Sriworakhan said in July, according to the AP.
Thai authorities also froze $ 37 million in assets linked to tiger trafficking in the Northeast of Thailand In 2016, authorities confiscated bank accounts and assets of a Thai citizen who was convicted of rhinoceros horned trafficking in South Africa.
Days before the arrest of Boonchai, Thai authorities seized 326 pounds of elephant ivory African, including three large tusks, worth about $ 469,800 from a Bangkok airport.
Ivory, which comes from the tusks of elephants, is used as jewelry, ornaments, medicines, chopsticks and others. In the United States and Asia, particularly in China, they fed the demand, according to an international study of 2015 conducted by National Ge ographic, and that resulted in the death of some 30,000 elephants each year.
Last spring, China closed dozens of its licensed ivory facilities, a move that some see as a sign that the country intends to help end the ivory trade.
In November, the Trump administration announced that it will reverse the import ban on elephant hunting trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. President Trump then decided to keep the ban in place, at least for now, after protests by animal rights groups.
The horn and the ivory trade
The fish and wildlife The service said that we have to kill elephants to help save them. The data says the opposite.
Thailand confiscates large elephant tusks worth more than $ 450,000