Two men from the Democratic Republic of Congo were taken into custody outside of Seattle last week. They were accused of shipping ivory and rhinoceros horn to America and planned to send more. Federal prosecutors stated that the two men were from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The United States has a ban almost on all trade in ivory from Africa. It is also subject to international treaty.
Herdade Lokua, 23,, and Jospin Mujangi (31,) were all arrested in Seattle on Wednesday. The Justice Department Monday announced that they were being charged with 11 charges, which include money laundering and smuggling. They also face allegations of lying about illegal wildlife shipments.
They allegedly had rhino horn and elephant ivory cut into smaller pieces, painted black and then mixed with black wood to conceal it.
The men allegedly offered bribes in Kinshasa for the shipment of the materials. Prosecutors stated that the shipment to the U.S. included five pounds of rhino hair and 49 of elephant ivory. However, the men claimed they could send more.
It involved an “unindicted conspirator”, described in court papers by a middleman who used online profiles to connect buyers to Lokua or Mujangi. Undercover U.S. agents were also part of the inquiry. Agents from the U.S. were also undercover.
” The investigation is ongoing,” stated the Justice Department in a statement.
It stated that a task force comprising its government in the Democratic Republic of Congo seized more than 2 ,000 lbs of ivory and 75 pound of pangolin weights in Kinshasa, each worth approximately $3.5 million. Their lawyers did not respond to a request late Monday for comment.
According to the indictment, Lokua had promised the intermediary that he would be able send two tons elephant ivory. Also, photos of white rhino horn were sent and offered.
The white rhinoceros was once considered extinct. However, its population has recovered with protections. According to the World Wildlife Fund, it is now “near threatened”. Only 2 northern white rhino are still alive.
Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.