Canadian ex-mountie given 5 years over narwhal tusk smuggling

Washington (AFP) –


A US court on Wednesday sentenced a former Canadian policeman to more than five years in prison for smuggling hundreds of narwhal tusks into the United States, the Justice Department announced.

Gregory Logan, a retired officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, had pleaded guilty before a federal court in the northeastern state of Maine in September last year to 10 money laundering offenses, after being extradited six months earlier.

"Unlawful wildlife trade like this undermines efforts by federal, state, and foreign governments to protect and restore populations of species like the narwhal, a majestic creature of the sea with long and spiraled protruding ivory tusks," Jeffrey Wood, acting chief of the department's environment and natural resources division, said in a statement.

Between 2000 and 2010, Logan, 59, smuggled more than 250 tusks, valued at between $1.5 million and $3 million, over the US border using false compartments in a vehicle and trailer before shipping them to customers across the United States, according to the Justice Department.

One customer, Andrew Zarauskas of Union, New Jersey, was sentenced in January 2015 to 33 months in prison following his conviction for conspiracy and money laundering.

Canadian authorities had arrested Logan in December 2013. He pleaded guilty to a smuggling offense in Canada and the terms of his extradition limited his US prosecution to money laundering offenses.

With distinctive ivory tusks that can grow up to eight feet (2.4 meters), narwhals inhabit the Arctic ocean and are protected under US and international law, making it illegal to import for commercial purposes.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the narwhal is "unquestionably a conservation-dependent species," with a total population of about 80,000 whales -- and qualifies as "near threatened," with hunting the greatest threat to its survival.