Indian-American jeweller pleads guilty to illegal ivory sales?

July 13th, 2012 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, July 13 (IANS) Two New York jewellers, one of them an Indian-American, have pleaded guilty to charges of selling and offering for sale illegal elephant ivory with a retail value of more than $2 million.

Mukesh Gupta, 67, pleaded guilty to one count of illegal commercialisation of wildlife, a felony under the Environmental Conservation Law, according to EmpireStateNews.net.

Gupta’s company, Raja Jewels, pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal commercialisation of wildlife.

Johnson Jung-Chien Lu, 56, and his company, New York Jewellery Mart, also pleaded guilty to one count of illegal commercialisation of wildlife.

Under their plea agreements, Gupta and Raja Jewels must forfeit elephant ivory with a retail value of nearly $2 million, the news site said.

They are also required to pay $45,000, which will be donated to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) for use in the organisation’s projects involving elephant protection, anti-poaching efforts, and combating the illegal ivory trade.

Under their respective plea agreements, Lu and New York Jewellery Mart must forfeit ivory valued at approximately $120,000, and pay $10,000 to be donated to the WCS.

In total, the investigation has resulted in the seizure of close to one tonne of illegal ivory articles and items.

“Poachers should not have a market in Manhattan,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. was quoted as saying. “It is unacceptable that tusks from elephants wind up being sold as mass-produced jewellery and unremarkable decorative items in this city.”

“Despite efforts to protect populations of endangered and threatened species, poachers are pushing them to the brink of extinction. This is an international problem that requires local solutions,” Vance said.

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