U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigation nets numerous arrests in Brazil
An investigation last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has led to extensive arrests this past week by Brazilian law enforcement officials.
Milan Hrabovsky, an American businessman serving a 14-month prison sentence, helped Fish and Wildlife agents assist in the breakup of a criminal network of tribal artifacts smugglers in Brazil.
On May 14, Brazilian Federal Police arrested 11 individuals linked to the smuggling ring and seized about 1,000 wildlife items. Some of those arrested were employed by Brazil’s National Indian Foundation, a government agency tasked with defending the interests and rights of Indian peoples in Brazil.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the handicraft trafficking scheme in Brazil operated on laws that allow Indians to hunt animals and sell products for their own sustenance to gain access to materials such as macaw feathers and monkey and jaguar teeth.
Hrabovsky, owner of two Florida businesses specializing in the sale of tribal art, was indicted in March 2003 on 17 felony counts related to the illegal importation and sale of thousands of dollars in wildlife items. Last July, he pleaded guilty to 10 count of smuggling, one count of obstructing justice and one count of violating U.S. wildlife product laws.
Hrabovsky used contracts in Brazil to smuggle headdresses, masks and other items, which he then sold over the Internet and at markets and craft fairs. Charges were brought against 10 of Hrabovsky’s largest customers in the United States. These individuals paid about $40,000 in fines for buying illegally imported wildlife items, Fish and Wildlife said.