Guilty plea in major rhino horn smuggling case

Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

December 19, 2013 A Chinese antique dealer, described as one of the most prolific wildlife traffickers in the world, pleaded guilty Thursday as the director of conspiracy to smuggle $4.5 million in rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory from the U.S. to China.

Zhifei Li, 29, faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison on each of 11 criminal counts when he is sentenced April 1.

New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, whose office prosecuted the case, said the trafficking of such things as rhino horn, which can fetch up to $17,500 per pound on the illegal market, has swelled to “unprecedented levels.”

“The brutality of animal poaching, wherever it occurs, feeds the demand of a multibillion-dollar illegal international market,” Fishman said.

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