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Californian man sentenced to prison for trafficking ivory

DOC Media release

Thursday November 10, 2016

Californian man sentenced to prison for trafficking ivory to NZ

A 61-year-old Californian, convicted in the United States of illegally trafficking elephant ivory to New Zealand, has been sentenced to three months in prison and fined $27,400.

Shahram ”Ron” Roohparvar pleaded guilty in California to falsifying documents to illegally sell and ship elephant ivory to Napier man, Patrick “Paddy” Cooper.

Cooper, a natural therapist and carver, admitted five charges, laid by the Department of Conservation (DOC), of importing African elephant ivory without a permit.

Cooper was fined $8000 in the Napier District Court in December last year.

Cooper came to the attention of authorities in 2012, when a carved elephant tusk addressed to him was seized at the International Mail Centre in Auckland. DOC

and Ministry of Primary Industries staff executed a search warrant at his Cooper’s Napier home and seized further illegally imported pieces of ivory.

The seized ivory was sent to Cooper by Roohparvar, who lives in Saratoga in California. Roohparvar admitted owning and operating a website through which he sold ivory and other items of protected wildlife - including red coral and leopard skin - to buyers overseas.

On top of his three-month prison sentence and $27,400 fine, Roohparvar was sentenced to three months home detention and ordered to pay $27,400 to the Lacey Act Reward Fund. This money is used by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, who prosecuted Roohparvar, to cover prosecution costs.

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DOC Senior Investigator Dylan Swain, who was involved in prosecuting Cooper, welcomed the sentence imposed on Roohparvar.

“The successful prosecutions of Cooper in New Zealand and Roohparvar in the United States are the result of agencies in both countries working together to police the illegal trade in endangered species,” says Dylan Swain.

“DOC and other government agencies in New Zealand worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate Roohparvar illegally selling elephant ivory to Cooper.”

“New Zealand has a responsibility to help protect threatened wildlife in other countries because we rely on international support to protect our endangered species from being exploited.”

Cooper is the second person to be convicted for illegally importing ivory into New Zealand, following the conviction of Jiezhen Jiang in Auckland in 2013. Jiang was fined $12,000 after admitting eight charges of illegally importing ivory.

Background information

• African and Asian elephants are classified as endangered species. A ban on trading ivory was imposed in 1989 by 175 countries that are parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). New Zealand became a party to CITES in 1989.

• Importing, exporting or re-exporting any part of a protected species, without the appropriate permits is an offence in New Zealand under the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989. The maximum penalty for importing ivory without a permit is five years imprisonment and or a fine of up to $100,000

• This legislation is administered by DOC. DOC investigators work closely with staff from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the New Zealand Customs Service to enforce the legislation. DOC also works closely with internet retailers including TradeMe and eBay to help prevent the international trade in endangered species.

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