A court in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region sentenced a man to 12-and-a-half years in jail for illegally transporting 29 kilograms of white rhino horn from Mozambique, state media reported on Wednesday.
Do Thanh Son, 38, was found guilty of “violating regulations on the management and protection of endangered, precious and rare animals,” online newspaper VnExpress reported, quoting Can Tho provincial court.
In December 2019, Son reportedly travelled to Mozambique and found work in a restaurant. Only a few months later, his employer asked Son to smuggle rhino horns to Vietnam for a fee of 1,000 dollars.
Son left Mozambique in late February. His flight was supposed to land in Ho Chi Minh City, but he was forced to divert to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta region due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
When customs officials at Can Tho airport scanned two pieces of Son’s luggage, they found suspicious items hidden inside one of his bags.
Son refused to open his bags, claiming he was transporting koi fish that would die if the bags were opened.
Officials forced him to open the bags and found 11 rhino horns weighing a combined total of just under 29 kilograms.
It took until December to sentence Son, despite his arrest in February.
The sale and purchase of rhino horns is strictly prohibited in Vietnam. The horns, however, remain highly popular, with many believing they offer miracle cures for diseases like cancer.
In China and Vietnam, 1 kilogram of rhino horn can sell for up to 30,000 dollars.