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Art Appraiser Pleads Guilty in Ivory-Smuggling Scheme

FILE - In a U.S. crackdown,confiscated ivory was stacked for crushing last year at the National Wildlife Property Repository at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colorado.

A Texas-based appraiser of Asian art pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court Tuesday to taking part in a conspiracy to smuggle illegal rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory to China.

Ning Qiu could spend more than two years in prison and be fined $150,000 when he is sentenced at a later date.

Authorities say Qiu admitted to helping the boss of the scheme obtain rhino horns and ivory, where they were smuggled to Hong Kong and used to make fake antiques.

The ringleader, Zhifei Li, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison last month.

U.S. Attorney John Malcolm Bales said the smuggling ring was not about serving Asian cultural and medicinal practices, but was about greed, organized crime, and depleting the endangered rhino and elephant populations.

Some Asians believe powdered rhino horn has health benefits.