Colombian fashion designer charged with wildlife trafficking

For the first time in Latin America, three people will be extradited to the United States for their alleged involvement in wildlife trafficking. One of them is a renowned Colombian designer.

On July 8, the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office captured three people requested for extradition in Cali, the capital city of the Colombian department of Valle del Cauca. The detainees, among whom is the renowned designer from Cali, Nancy González, are accused of illegally sending leather goods made with skins from exotic and endangered animals to the United States.

According to the statement of the prosecuting entity, “a Court of the Southern District of Florida requires them to answer for charges such as: conspiracy to import and bring wildlife to the United States against the law; defraud the United States, preventing, harming, obstructing and defeating legitimate government functions; and smuggling merchandise into the United States.”

SEE ALSO: Donkey skin smuggling on the north coast of Colombia

The Prosecutor’s Office pointed out that those extraditables contacted citizens of Valle del Cauca and convinced them to travel to the North American country to bring the items. In addition to paying them US$600, the alleged criminals bought their air tickets. Likewise, they were told that, in case of any question from the authorities, they should point out that the leather products were gifts for family or friends.

The accessories were not only exhibited at New York Fashion Week, but were also sold in luxury stores in Seoul, Toronto, London, Paris, Milan and Venice. According to Legal Affairs, the prices of González’s bags abroad range from US$510 to more than US$10,000 for some models.

The three extraditables face a sentence of up to 25 years in prison, plus a fine of half a million dollars, reported W Radio.

InSight Crime Analysis

Nancy González and two of her workers would be the first to be extradited in Latin America linked to the illegal trade in leather goods, which would set a precedent in the region, highly attractive for wildlife trafficking.

Colombia is a paradise for wildlife traffickers. In some of the hotspots of animal poaching, such as the departments of Amazonas or Chocó, there is a weak presence of the State and the seizures that are made correspond to a small amount compared to the total flow of traffic. Seizures also occur towards the far end of the supply chain, after many of the animals have died.

The country struggles to stop crimes related to wildlife trafficking.

SEE ALSO: The US is the center of trade for big cats

In September 2021, an investigation showed the magnitude of wildlife trafficking and how it extends far beyond people like González.

The extraction of birds, reptiles, amphibians, felines and primates is a routine practice for sophisticated criminal networks. From scientific experimentation to tourism, from pseudo-therapeutic uses to religious rituals, wildlife in Colombia suffers from incessant looting. Regardless of the purpose, the modus operandi is often similar: members of local communities are contacted to track and capture certain specific species, depending on the client’s demand.

Captured creatures are slaughtered, skinned, or have their fangs and claws removed, depending on their intended use. Ultimately, dead or alive, the animals are removed from the region, often “laundered” through legal documentation filled out with erroneous data, as InSight Crime found.

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