Turtle-Smuggling Ring Busted, Chinese National Extradited To US

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Rowan Saydlowski Contributor
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A Chinese national was extradited to the United States for trial Wednesday after officials infiltrated his illegal turtle-smuggling ring, according to the Department of Justice.

Kang Juntao of Hangzhou City, China, allegedly arranged for five protected turtle species worth  $2.25 million to be smuggled from the United States to Hong Kong for sale on the black market, according to a report by Newsweek. The turtles were protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty, which requires special permits in order to trade the covered animals and plants.

Aurelia Skipwith, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Thursday that “wildlife trafficking is a serious crime that impacts imperiled species at home and abroad.”

Kang was reportedly in contact with an undercover agent in the United States, who is referred to in the indictment as “Person One.” Kang paid Person One via PayPal and instructed Person One and others to illegally ship 1,500 turtles to Hong Kong. (RELATED: Authorities In Thailand Seize Nearly $1 Billion Worth Of Ketamine)

The U.S. Department of Justice noted that the turtles were “inhumanely bound with duct tape and placed in socks so as not to alert customs authorities.” According to the 2020 World Wildlife Crime Report, freshwater turtles and tortoises make up nine out of the top 10 CITES-listed reptile species seized by border officials over the last decade.

Kang was reportedly arrested in Malaysia in January 2019 and charged in February 2019 before being extradited to the United States this Wednesday.