The Trail Leads to South Africa; Big-Game Smugglers

By Galster, Steven R. | The Nation, February 15, 1993 | Go to article overview

The Trail Leads to South Africa; Big-Game Smugglers


Galster, Steven R., The Nation


The call on Richard Moulton's undercover telephone line was from El Salvador. On the other end was a man known as "Wiseguy," the subject of a federal sting operation that Moulton was conducting from his small sixth-floor office in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. "Rick, it's John," the voice said, addressing Moulton by his cover name, Rick Moore. "I'm calling to let you know that Marius was just in Angola and inspected the product, and there's plenty available." The caller added that as soon as "Rick" agreed to pay, he would fly to Africa to pick up the "product," which was being secured by an army special forces

unit. Moulton gave the caller the green light, hung up and smiled. Wiseguy was hooked.

On July 16, 1992--four years after that call--Moulton, a special agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saw the biggest case of his sixteen-year career climax in a Connecticut courtroom where Marius Meiring, a former South African military officer, pleaded guilty to charges of running an illegal and highly unusual smuggling operation between Africa and the United States. But Moulton's investigation had stumbled upon much more. The affair provided a rare glimpse into the sleazy underworld of the endangered species trade. The trail Moulton pursued led to or passed near the South African government and U.S. mercenaries. It also revealed another instance of the familiar overlap between C.I.A.-backed covert warfare and smuggling. In most cases, the booty is drugs. In this instance, the prize was the horn of a prehistoric species on the verge of extinction--the black rhinoceros.

Wiseguy--his real name is John Lukman--was Meiring's American partner, and had first come to Moulton's attention in early 1988 when he advertised an African leopard head for sale in a Hartford newspaper. Moulton, Fish and Wildlife's only special agent in Connecticut, telephoned Lukman and, posing as a potential buyer, arranged to meet him at a diner. He had expected just another small-time smuggler, but the tall, dark, lean, thirtyish Lukman boasted that he had leopard skins obtained directly from Ian Smith, the former prime minister of Rhodesia, a personal friend. Lukman also claimed he had South African military contacts in Namibia who could secure weapons used by Communist forces in the war in Angola and "anything else" he wanted.

Many investigations by Fish and Wildlife Service (part of the Interior Department) agents--usually referred to as the "Duck Cops" --eventually branch off into nonwildlife areas. Moulton himself was investigating a pet store owner who was trafficking in rare piranhas and cocaine.

For the next eight months, Moulton and his colleague, Bob Clifford of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, met Lukman in local parking lots to exchange thousands of dollars for Russian AK-47s and cheetah and leopard skins. Lukman came to trust his new clients and related odd stories about his life. The agents discovered, for instance, that Lukman traveled extensively to some interesting places, such as El Salvador, where he had visited "friends" stationed at Ilopango Air Base, the launching pad of American mercenaries involved in supplying the contras in Nicaragua. But the agents never could determine if Lukman was doing more than just "sightseeing," as he claimed.

One day Moulton decided to see just how serious a smuggler Lukman was by asking for a more precious item: rhinoceros horn. Prized in Asia as a fever reducer, horns can fetch up to $10,000 a kilo (one pair of horns weighs between two and five kilos). As the population of the African black rhino plummets-from 65,000 in 1970 to only 2,000 today--the price has soared. Lukman said it would be difficult to obtain the horn, but that he would contact his supplier, Marius Meiring.

For five years, the Environmental Investigation Agency, a private, nonprofit Washington-based organization that monitors the illegal trade in endangered species, has been compiling evidence of the South African military's involvement in the ivory and rhino horn trade as part of Pretoria's regional strategy of destabilizing neighboring states opposed to apartheid, particularly Angola and Mozambique, where the South African Defense Force has armed the insurgent groups, Unita and Renamo. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Trail Leads to South Africa; Big-Game Smugglers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.