Kenyan authorities have arrested a man wanted in the United States for allegedly conspiring to sell 10 tonnes of elephant ivory and more than 181kg (approximately 400 pounds) of rhinoceros horn across a seven-year period.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigation said on its Twitter account on Wednesday that officers arrested Abubakar Mansur Mohammed Surur, a Kenyan national who had been flagged as a “wanted person” in the US for the offences.
He was on a chartered flight from Yemen which landed in Kenya’s second-largest city, Mombasa, early on Tuesday, authorities said.
.@DCI_Kenya Detectives based at Moi International Airport Mombasa have today arrested Mr Abubakar Mansur Mohammed Surur who had been flagged as a WANTED PERSON in the United States for Ivory related offenses after he landed from Yemen on board a chartered aircraft.
— DCI KENYA (@DCI_Kenya) July 29, 2020
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has said Surur was part of a transnational criminal enterprise known as the “Enterprise” based in Uganda and surrounding countries.
Authorities believed Surur and several others conspired to distribute, sell and smuggle the ivory and horn between 2012 and 2019.
The haul was believed to have involved the illegal poaching of more than 35 rhinoceros and more than 100 elephants.
US authorities have said one co-defendant, a Liberian man, has already been extradited to the United States after being arrested in Uganda last year.
A Guinean man remained in custody in Senegal where authorities are considering an extradition request.
A fourth defendant, who is also Kenyan, remains a fugitive.
Africa had 1.3 million elephants in the 1970s, but only 500,000 remain due to poaching and trophy hunting. Less than 30,000 rhinos are estimated to remain in the wild.
The price of rhino horn skyrocketed as demand grew in Asian countries, mainly China and Vietnam, where the horns are ground up and used in traditional Chinese medicine as a supposed cure for a variety of ailments.
Syndicates from Vietnam, China, South Korea and Thailand have been identified as being involved in the trafficking.