A Kenyan man charged with conspiring to commit a crime of trafficking tons of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns has pleaded not guilty to the charges at a US court.
Mansur Mohamed Surur, 60, also denied charges of money laundering and drug dealing against him and was detained without bail, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Surur was extradited from Kenya and arrived to the United States on Monday morning to face charges of illegal poaching of approximately 35 rhinoceros and more than 100 elephants.
The US Department of Justice said Surur was also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and a conspiracy to distribute more than 10 kilograms of heroin.
“Surur is alleged to be a member of an international conspiracy to traffic in rhino horns, elephant ivory, and heroin. The enterprise is allegedly responsible for the illegal slaughter of dozens of rhinos and more than 100 elephants, both endangered species. The excellent work of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the DEA has put an end to this operation,” Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said.
Surur was charged alongside three others, namely, Moazu Kromah, Amara Cherif, Bamba Issiaka and Abdi Hussein Ahmed.
“Kromah, Cherif, Surur, and Ahmed were members of a transnational criminal enterprise based in Uganda and surrounding countries that was engaged in the large-scale trafficking and smuggling of rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory,” the department said.
The suspect was arrested by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa on July 29, 2020.
“The suspect is in lawful custody awaiting further processing,” DCI said in a tweet.
He returned to the country alongside forty-six other Kenyans who were stranded in Yemen.
Ms Strauss thanked law enforcement authorities and conservation partners in Uganda as well as the Kenya’s DCI and DPP for their assistance in the investigation that the probe was continuing.