A Kenyan man pleaded guilty to illegal trafficking in ivory and rhino horns in a US federal court on Wednesday.
New York prosecutors said Mansur Mohamed Surur was involved in the illegal poaching of more than 35 rhinos involved over 100 elephants, both endangered species.
He also pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute a kilogram of heroin to a US buyer, the maximum sentence being life imprisonment
Prosecutors said Surur was the face of the Kromah Network – an international syndicate involved in the trafficking of rhino horn, ivory and drugs in Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Senegal. His accomplices, Moazu Kromah (Liberian) and Amara Cherif (Guinean), had previously pleaded guilty to similar charges on March 30 and April 27 respectively.
Their co-defendants were Badru Abdul Aziz Saleh and Abdi Hussein Ahmed, still have to plead. Mr Aziz is being held in custody in Nairobi awaiting extradition to the US while Mr Ahmed remains at large.
Read: US Attorney Announces Mansour’s Extradition
The US State Department has offered a Sh100 million reward for any information leading to his arrest. Mr Aziz was recently arrested in Liboi, Garissa, while trying to cross into Somalia.
Prosecutors said the network was receiving payments by wire transfer through US financial institutions and locally through money service bureaus using forged documents. They reportedly used mobile money transfers to pay bribes to unscrupulous customs officials at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to ensure the safe shipment of the ivory Led by Mr. George Kinoti, who said protecting endangered wildlife resources is a priority for the Biden administration.
He also commended the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, headed by Mr. Noordin Haji, for their support of the investigation.< /p>
“Protecting endangered wildlife and natural resources is a critical and important priority for my office. These defendants were responsible for promoting an industry that illegally slaughters species protected by international treaties around the world. One of those defendants was also involved in a drug conspiracy involving a large quantity of heroin,” Mr Williams said. strong>
“Thanks to the tireless efforts of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration, these defendants have now pleaded guilty to the serious and destructive crimes they committed,” he added.< /p >
Mr Williams also thanked law enforcement and conservation partners in Uganda and Kenya for their contributions to the investigation.
Court documents show that Kromah, Cherif and Surur conspired with others to transport , distribute and sell and smuggle approximately 190 kilos of rhinoceros and at least 10 tons of ivory valued at US$3.4 million and US$4 million respectively in East and West Africa.
The items were disguised as works of art, such as African masks and statues, to customers in America and parts of Asia, who would remit the payments.
Prosecutors said law enforcement officials on or about March 16, 2018 package w intercepted a black rhino sold by the defendants and destined for a buyer in Manhattan. The defendants offered to sell additional rhino horns of various weights, including horns weighing up to approximately seven kilograms.
On July 17, 2018, agents intercepted a package containing two rhino horns sold by the defendants, who were determined to be a buyer in Manhattan.
Kromah, 52, Surur and Cherif, 57, are in US custody awaiting sentencing. The wildlife trafficking conspiracy carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
“Eradicating the drug and wildlife trade is a priority for the Biden administration. We are grateful for the Kenyan government’s continued partnership in apprehending and arresting members of these criminal networks,” said Mr. Eric Kneedler, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Nairobi last week.
Surur was announced last year delivered to the United States. In July 2020, he tried to sneak home on a Skyward Express charter flight, but was arrested in an operation conducted by DCI and Interpol upon arrival at Mombasa’s Moi International Airport.
He is from Marsabit County and had just landed from Yemen, where he was hiding, after Interpol issued a red alert in 2019. emailprotected]