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Alleged Chinese ivory smuggler caught in Kenya

February 10, 2014

BEIJING (AP) — A suspected Chinese ivory smuggler has been apprehended in Kenya and extradited in the first time that China has arrested a wildlife crime suspect overseas, the country’s official news agency reported Monday.

Xinhua News Agency said the countries worked together to catch the suspect who is alleged to have led an ivory trafficking group in Kenya and hired couriers to smuggle ivory into China.

Kenyan authorities working with Chinese customs officials and police apprehended the suspect with the surname Xue in Nairobi on Jan. 17 and extradited him a day later, Xinhua said, citing China’s Endangered Species Import and Export Management Office. A man from the office’s law enforcement branch said the Xinhua report was accurate, but wouldn’t give further details.

Xinhua said the final two suspects of the group were arrested when entering China on Jan. 16 and 17. One was a man called Zheng who allegedly helped buy ivory in Kenya and paid smugglers 5,000 to 10,000 yuan ($820 to $1,640) each time, and the other a woman called Li, said to be Xue’s girlfriend who helped get the ivory through customs.

It said the arrests were part of an operation known as Cobra II, launched by parties including China, the United States, South Africa and the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network to crack down on wildlife crimes. Overall it involved 28 countries in the four weeks up until Jan. 26.

Update hourly