New York — A Kenyan has pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic in rhino horns and elephant ivory in a in Manhattan Federal Court.
According to Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, Mansur Mohamed Surur was involved in the illegal poaching of more than approximately 35 rhinoceros and more than 100 elephants.
“The protection of endangered wildlife and natural resources is a crucial and important priority for my office,” Williams said.
“These defendants were responsible for furthering an industry that illegally slaughters species protected by international agreements around the world. One of these defendants also engaged in a narcotics conspiracy involving a large quantity of heroin. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), these defendants have now pleaded guilty to the serious and destructive crimes they committed.”
A statement from the American Embassy in Nairobi stated that Surur also pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute heroin to a buyer located in the United States.
Two of Surur’s co-defendants, Moazu Kromah, aka Ayoub, Ayuba, and Kampala Man, a citizen of Liberia, and Amara Cherif, aka Bamba Issiaka, a citizen of Guinea, previously pleaded guilty on March 30, 2022, and April 27, 2022, respectively to conspiring to traffic in rhino horns and elephant ivory, as well as substantive charges of trafficking in rhino horns.
The remaining defendants, Badru Abdul Aziz Saleh, aka Badro, and Abdi Hussein Ahmed, aka Abu Khadi, are both citizens of Kenya.
Saleh is in custody in Kenya based on a U.S. extradition request, and Ahmed remains a fugitive.
The U.S. Department of State has offered a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to his arrest and/or conviction
According to the charging and other documents filed in the case, as well as statements made during the plea and other proceedings:
Kromah, Cherif, and Surur were members of a transnational criminal enterprise (the “Enterprise”) based in Uganda and surrounding countries that was engaged in the large-scale trafficking and smuggling of rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory, both protected wildlife species. Trade involving endangered or threatened species violates several U.S. laws, as well as international treaties implemented by certain U.S. laws.
From at least in or about December 2012 through at least in or about May 2019, Kromah, Cherif, Surur, and others conspired to transport, distribute, sell and smuggle at least approximately 190 kilograms of rhinoceros horns and at least approximately 10 tons of elephant ivory from or involving various countries in East Africa, including Uganda, the
On or about March 16, 2018, law enforcement agents intercepted a package containing a black rhino horn sold by the defendants that was intended for a buyer represented to be in Manhattan.
From in or about March 2018 through in or about May 2018, the defendants offered to sell additional rhinoceros horns of varying weights, including horns weighing up to approximately seven kilograms.
Kromah previously was expelled to the United States from Uganda, while Cherif and Surur were extradited from Senegal and Kenya, respectively.
A federal district court judge will now determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.