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Thai police nab alleged head of major wildlife smuggling network

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Police in Thailand have detained the suspected head of Asia’s largest and most prolific wildlife smuggling gangs.

Boonchai Bach, 40, stands accused of making a fortune out of trafficking huge quantities of illicit elephant tusks and rhino horns out of Africa to Asia, where they are used in traditional medicines.

The Thai national of Vietnamese origin was held by investigators at his base in Nakorn Panom, Thailand, next to the Mekong River, on suspicion of smuggling 14 rhino horns estimated to be worth around $975,400 from Africa to Thailand last month.

Bach is said to be one of the leading members of a family-run wildlife trafficking network that smuggled large amounts of animal parts from Africa to major dealers in Laos, Vietnam and China, including to the notorious Vixay Keosavang, who is renowned as one of the most ruthless wildlife criminals operating in Southeast Asia.

“This arrest is a significant for many reasons,” Police Colonel Chutrakul Yodmadee told the Freeland Foundation, a Thai charity that campaigns for a world free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery.

“The confiscated items are high in value. And we are able to arrest the whole network involved, starting from the courier, the facilitator, the exporter who plan to export goods through Thai-Laos border. We even got the moneyman (investor) behind the gang. That means we are able to arrest the whole network.”

Bach could be jailed for four years and receive a $1,300 fine if he is found guilty of committing the offences of which he has been accused, but police are considering charging him with further crimes that could result in him receiving a much more severe punishment.

Investigators are also said to be probing allegations that Bach oversaw a smuggling operation that involved huge quantities of poached elephant ivory, rhino horns, pangolins, tigers, lions and other rare and endangered species being sold to dealers for more than a decade.

Separately, the AFP news agency reports that wildlife smugglers on Tuesday drowned hundreds of birds they were trafficking from Malaysia to Indonesia by throwing them into the sea.

The traffickers lobbed around 300 birds into the water as they were pursued by coast guard boats off the southwest peninsular of Malaysia.

Investigators were only able to rescue three of the birds, which were believed to have been a type of lark that are sold as pets in Indonesia.

“The total number was 300 birds – only three have been saved,” Malaysian coast guard official Commander Azman Samsudin commented.

“When the smugglers were chased by us, they threw the birds into the sea.”

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Bosnian migrant jailed for 7 years for selling firearms to Swedish neo-Nazis and terrorists

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A Bosnian national has been jailed for more than seven years by a US court in Washington state after being convicted of sending gun parts to neo-Nazis in Sweden.

Hany Veletanlic, a 36-year-old Bosnian citizen who had been living legally in the US, was handed a jail sentence of 85 months after he was found guilty of four offences related to the illegal possession and trafficking of firearms.

The investigation that led to the arrest and ultimate conviction of Veletanlic began when Swedish law enforcement agents seized a Glock firearm from a property in the municipality of Fagersta.

Although the gun’s serial number had been filed off, Glock was able to establish that it had been purchased by a buyer in Seattle through a code printed on one its parts.

When contacted by US police, the buyer of the weapon said he had sold it privately to Veletanlic, who then contacted investigators when he heard enquiries were being made about the gun.

During a subsequent arrest, police discovered that the Bosnian national was in possession of a stolen Ruger pistol with its serial number removed.

The Bosnian admitted he sold firearms on eBay and via direct sales, and confessed to shipping 20 different gun consignments to two different customer groups in Sweden, as well as additional weapon packages to buyers in France, Russia and Brazil.

Veletanlic falsely labelled his illicit shipments as bicycle parts and sent them to customers using fake names and return addresses.

Giving evidence during his trial, police from Sweden said some of the buyers of Veletanlic’s firearms were linked to neo-Nazi and terrorist activity.

Prosecutors said Veletanlic had repeatedly lied to law enforcement officers while they were investigating his weapons trafficking conspiracy, and that he was involved in a plot to have a witness in the case shot from behind bars.

Jailing Veletanlic, US District Judge James Robart said he had been involved in the running of an illegal “lucrative business” and taken “quite sophisticated steps” in order to cover his tracks.

US Attorney Brian Moran commented: “This defendant repeatedly lied to law enforcement, violated judges orders, and even schemed to harm a witness against him from the Federal Detention Centre.

“Even behind bars he tried to transfer guns in his control to another violent group.  Such disregard for the rule of law cannot be tolerated.”

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Customs workers in US state of Minnesota find bogus bank bills with face value of $900,000 in Chinese rail container

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bogus bank bills with face value of $900,000

US customs workers in Minnesota have discovered counterfeit bank notes with a face value of $900,000 in a container that is said to have originated from China.

Agents from US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) referred the shipment for further inspection after conducting an initial search of rail freight passing through the International Falls Port of Entry on the US/Canada border.

During a more detailed inspection of the container, border control officers found a total of 45 cartons, each of which contained fake $1 bills.

In total, the shipment of fake currency had a face value of $900,000.

After discovering the notes, CBP officers called in experts from the US Secret Service, who were able to confirm the currency was indeed fake.

Commenting on the discovery of the bogus bills, Pembina Area Port Director Jason Schmelz said in a statement: “CBP officers strive every day to protect the United States from a variety of threats.

“Those threats don’t always come in the form of terrorists or narcotics, but also in the form of counterfeit currency and other goods that have the potential to harm the economy of the United States.

“Thanks to the dedication of our officers and our partnership with the Secret Service, we were able to keep this currency from entering into circulation.”

The CBP has said preventing the flow of illicit goods and counterfeit currency into the US is one of its top priorities, not least on account of the damage such items can do to the US economy.

Last week, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its first report on combatting counterfeit and pirated goods in America after US President Donald Trump issued a Memorandum on Combatting Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods in April of last year.

The report found that “the flood of counterfeit and pirated goods” now being sold to US consumers through online third-party marketplaces is threatening both public health and safety as well as national security.

“The lack of effective methods for addressing counterfeit goods stifles American innovation and erodes the competitiveness of US manufacturers and workers,” the study concluded.

“Despite increased efforts of both the US government and private sector stakeholders, the trafficking of counterfeit and pirated goods continues to worsen, in both the volume and the array of products being trafficked.”

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Pair of drug traffickers handed 33 years behind bars for attempting to smuggle cocaine worth £60 million into UK

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pair of drug traffickers handed 33 years

Two men who were caught attempting to smuggle cocaine worth an estimated £60 million ($78.33 million) into the UK after shipping it from on a yacht from South America have been jailed for a total of 33 years.

Officers from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA), which is often referred to as Britain’s equivalent of the FBI, identified that the vessel on which Scott Kilgour and Gary Swift were travelling was carrying a large cocaine shipment in August last year.

After working in close cooperation with their colleagues in Spain, NCA investigators boarded the boat off the coast of Wales and arrested Swift, 53, and Kilgour, 41, who were both from Liverpool.

After bringing the boat to shore, specialist officers conducted a forensic search of the vessel, finding 751lgs of cocaine.

Tests later proved that the drugs were 83% pure, giving the haul a wholesale value of some £24 million and a potential street value of £60 million once mixed with cutting agents.

Both men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import cocaine at Swansea Crown Court in September of last year.

Today, Swift was handed a 19-and-a-half-year jail term, while Kilgour was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years.

The court was told that the men set off from the Canary Islands to collect the huge cocaine shipment from Suriname on the north-east coast of South America in June 2019, and were intercepted on 27 August after police put their vessel under surveillance.

When law enforcement officers boarded the boat, Swift told them: “I just want to say that I am guilty. I have got something substantial on the boat and they will find it.”

Speaking after sentencing, Jayne Lloyd, NCA Regional Head of Investigations, commented: “Today’s result shows what will happen if you try to flood our streets with millions of pounds worth of potentially deadly drugs – you will be caught and you will face the consequences.

“Drugs aren’t just damaging to the people that take them, they fuel violence and exploitation, damaging communities and leaving destruction in their wake.

“It’s thanks to the work of the NCA, Border Force officers, and the Spanish National Police, that two highly organised criminals are behind bars and that these drugs haven’t made their way onto the streets.”

Deputy Director Steve Whitton, from Border Force’s Maritime Command, said: “The work of the crew of HMC Protector, as well as our specialist deep rummage search officers, played a crucial role in this case.

“Their work was a key part of an investigation which has ultimately put two significant drug smugglers behind bars.”

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