Auctioneer accused of smuggling rhinoceros horns

Jacob Chait allegedly participated in deals involving 15 horns, valued at $2.4M

FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015 file photo rhinos walk in the Hluhluwe game reserve South Africa. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam, File)

NEW YORK (WWLP) – An auctioneer from Beverly Hills has been indicted in New York as part of an alleged rhinoceros horn smuggling conspiracy. Jacob Chait, 34, is accused of setting up deals with foreign buyers to sell the valuable, but illegal commodity. On one occasion, Chait is alleged to have personally smuggled two horns of endangered black rhinos in his luggage on a trip to China.

According to a news release sent to 22News by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Chait and his alleged-co-conspirators are accused of participating in eight deals involving 15 rhinoceros horns- carrying a total value of $2.4 million.

“As alleged, Jacob Chait trafficked in and smuggled rhinoceros horns, further threatening an already endangered species. Rhinoceros have no known predators other than humans, and yet, driven by the illegal trade in their horns, literally worth more than their weight in gold on the black market, rhinoceros are on their way to extinction,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Jim Kurth of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that in Africa, a rhinoceros is poached once every eight hours. At that rate, the rhinoceros will be extinct in the wild in just 15 years’ time.

The trade in rhinoceros horns (as well as ivory from elephants) was deemed illegal under the 1976 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora. Still, a black market trade thrives, and the contraband product is heavily prized in portions of Asia, where it is valued for both decorative and medicinal purposes.