Thursday, July 28, 2011

Philadelphia art dealer 'smuggled tonne of ivory'

An art dealer has been arrested and accused of smuggling a tonne of African ivory into the US for sale at his Philadelphia store.

Victor Gordon, 68, paid a conspirator to fly to Africa, purchase raw ivory and have it carved to his specifications, prosecutors said.

The conspirator dyed the carvings in order to make them appear old before smuggling them into the US, they said.

Traffic in ivory is tightly restricted under US and international law.

"It's safe to say dozens of elephants sit before you," Edward Grace, deputy chief of law enforcement for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, told reporters in Philadelphia.

There, officials displayed for reporters intricately carved whole tusks and smaller sculptures and figurines that agents had seized from Mr Gordon's shop and from his customers.

Elephants are protected under the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Ivory more than 100 years old can be sold can be legally imported into the US.
Two smuggled ivory tusks, in a photo provided by the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York The government hopes to seize all the allegedly smuggled ivory

"The amount of the elephant ivory allegedly plundered in this case is staggering and highlights the seriousness of the charged crimes," United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said. (more)