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Two Shahtoosh Traders To Be Sentenced in US Court

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 00/11/02; November 2, 2000.]

Contact:

Justin Lowe, Tibetan Plateau Project Earth Island Institute Phone: (415) 788-3666 x132 Fax: (415) 788-7324 E-mail: tppei@earthisland.org Internet: http://www.earthisland.org/tpp/

November 1, 2000

On November 6 at 9.30AM two shahtoosh traders will be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey in U.S. v. Navarang Exports India, et. al., the first shahtoosh-related case to be prosecuted in the U.S., followed by the sentencing of an Indian corporation on January 8, 2001.

On July 6, 2000, Linda Ho McAfee and Janet Mackay-Benton, former executives of Cocoon North America, pleaded guilty to violations of the U.S. Endangered Species Act associated with the illegal export of more than 100 shahtoosh shawls to a Paris dealer.

The case acquired significant notoriety last year when Vanity Fair published an extensive article on the U.S. shahtoosh market and the role of McAfee and Mackay-Benton, as well as the alleged involvement of numerous socialites and celebrities in the shahtoosh trade.

Shahtoosh is the fine underwool of the rare Tibetan antelope, which is extensively poached in Tibet and Western China to supply a global trade. Poachers sell shahtoosh to international smugglers, who transport it to the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India, where it is manufactured into shawls that are considered the world's most luxurious -- and expensive -- woolen products, selling for up to $10,000 or more apiece in London, Paris, Milan and New York. The pelts of at least three antelope are required to manufacture a single shawl and in 1998 the Chinese government estimated that as many as 20,000 animals are killed annually to supply the luxury shahtoosh trade.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) recently classified the Tibetan antelope as an "endangered" species, indicating that the animal is confronting a "very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future."

McAfee and Mackay-Benton are each subject to $25,000 fines and prison terms of up to six months.

On January 8, Navarang Exports India will be sentenced in a separate hearing and could be fined $500,000 and receive five years probation.

Contact the Tibetan Plateau Project for additional background information and referrals to other sources.

The Tibetan Plateau Project (TPP) of Earth Island Institute is an international conservation organization based in San Francisco that promotes the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable development of mountain communities in the Tibetan Plateau region. TPP's Tibetan Antelope Conservation Campaign has been working for more than two years to increase protection for the species and end the international trade in shahtoosh.

The U.S. District Court is located at: 970 Broad Street, Seventh Floor, Newark, New Jersey 07102, Phone: 973-645-2700

Public Affairs Office: 973-645-2888; Michael Drewniak, Public Affairs Officer; Alan Ables, Public Affairs Specialist. News: http://www.njusao.org

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION RESOURCES

USFWS Press Release: http://northeast.fws.gov/newsrel/shahtoosh.html

USFWS Shahtoosh Fact Sheet: http://www.fws.gov/issues/shah1.html

Tibetan Antelope Fact Sheet: http://www.earthisland.org/tpp/chirufacts.htm

Issue Background and News Links: http://www.earthisland.org/tpp/antelope.htm

USDOJ/NJ Press Release: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nj/na0706_r.htm

(Please note that PA has erroneously indicated that the Tibetan antelope is an "endangered species" under the ESA.)


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