PRAGUE, July 14 (Xinhua) -- The Czech court dismissed the charges against the majority of people accused of involvement in the rhino horn trading gang, a spokesperson of the District Court for Prague 6 district said on Saturday.
Spokesperson Zuzana Barochova said that the verdict was not final.
The only person who received the punishment was Mao Nguyen Hue, who got a two-year suspended sentence and a fine of 600,000 Czech crowns (approx. 27,000 U.S. dollars) for inappropriate operation with protected wildlife.
The case of alleged illegal rhino horn trafficking started this year on Jan. 6 at Prague's District Court and got resolved only in June. The case involved 16 defendants who could have been sentenced up to eight years in prison. Six of them did not appear at court in person.
The public prosecutor disagreed with the court's decision.
The accused man was given time to figure out whether he would appeal or not.
According to the indictment, the illegal trade happened in the period between 2011 and 2013. The organizers of the crime allegedly looked for the hunters who traveled to South Africa to hunt southern white rhino. The hunters got their stay and other expenses covered by the organizers, usually with an amount that could exceed one million Czech crowns (approximately 45.000 U.S. dollars). The organizers also assisted in obtaining a license to export the trophy from Africa to the Czech Republic. Rhino horns entered the Czech Republic most frequently through the airports of Bratislava and Prague.
The export of the trophies from South Africa is not criminal as it is, but the subsequent trade of rhino horns is a criminal offense. The gang could have sold or attempted to sell around 24 horns with a total value of nearly 96 million Czech crowns (approximately 4.32 millilon U.S. dollars).
The trade process was most likely controlled by the organizers as well. According to the case details, the defendants paid over 100 U.S. dollars for a horn. The prosecutor's side, however, stated that the actual price of the product depended on its weight and ranged from about 300,000 to 500,000 U.S. dollars per piece.
None of the defendants admitted guilt. During the case hearing, the hunters said they had no idea they would do anything illegal. They also deny that they were paid for the job. Some others just said they went to the safari for enjoyment.
The indictment stated that the alleged organizers planned to export the horns from the Czech Republic without the necessary export and import licenses to Vietnam. It was mentioned that the final price for the rhino horns was several times higher than the cost of hunting.