International crime ring that trafficked in shark fins is dismantled, U.S. says
07 Sep 2020

Shark fin soup, considered a delicacy in some countries, has long fueled demand for illegally harvested fins. But federal authorities in Georgia announced this week that they had dismantled at least one source for the ingredient: a multimillion-dollar organization they described as an international money laundering, drug trafficking and illegal wildlife trade ring.

A dozen people, including Terry Xing Zhao Wu, 45, of Burlingame, Calif., and two businesses on opposite ends of the country face multiple charges, including fraud and money laundering, for their roles in what the authorities called the “Wu transnational criminal organization,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia said in a statement on Thursday.

“United with our partner agencies, we have shut down an operation that fed a seemingly insatiable overseas appetite for illegally traded wildlife, and seized ill-gotten assets derived from that despicable criminal enterprise,” Bobby L. Christine, the U.S. attorney for the district, said in the statement.

At a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Christine said that Operation Apex was “about much more than disrupting the despicable practice of hacking the fins off of sharks and leaving them to drown in the sea to create a bowl of soup.”

“The investigation is about dismantling a major conspiracy aimed at profiting from illegally traded wildlife and illegally grown marijuana, hiding the sources of those proceeds and using it to fuel an insatiable criminal enterprise,” he said.

The authorities seized nearly $8 million in cash, diamonds and precious metals during the arrests and searches of homes and workplaces of the dozen people charged, prosecutors said.

By Aimee Ortiz, The New York Times, 4 September 2020

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