Finance Colombia – Colombian fashion designer faces 25 years in prison for smuggling handbags made from wild animals into the US. | Fashion

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Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office announced the capture of a haute couture fashion designer Nancy Teresa Gonzalez de Barbieri, owner of CI International Design and Fashion SAS; and two of his accomplices, Diego Mauricio Rodríguez Giraldo and Jhon Camilo Aguilar Jaramillo, for manufacturing handbags, purses and accessories with species of Colombian wildlife, and then illegally exporting them to the United States in contravention of the CITES convention.

Gonzalez’s operation allegedly hired local citizens to travel to the United States with the illegal haute couture and evade customs by claiming that the products they were carrying were gifts for family and friends. Instead, the products were sold at complicit luxury boutiques and elite venues like New York Fashion Week. In exchange, the “mules” (human smuggling couriers) who transported the contraband received tickets to the United States and $600 for expenses.

Such action violated the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The US Federal Court for the Southern District of Florida filed an extradition request against the trio for:

      1. Conspiracy to import and bring wildlife into the United States,
      2. Defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and nullifying government functions, and
      3. Smuggling merchandise into the United States.

The Colombian Attorney General’s office claims that these captures are the first under the CITES treaty, and the investigation was based on the cooperation of the Specialized Directorate against the Violation of Human Rights of Colombia and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. USA

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Colombia has strict laws that protect its wildlife and prohibit the killing and trading of exotic fauna, while the United States prohibits the importation or trafficking of wildlife products, except as provided by CITES. The penalties in this case are potentially 25 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

According to the US indictment, González was well aware of CITES regulations and had previously complied with them, but as of 2016 he realized that he could use mules to transport his products in luggage as personal items, evading customs and without obtaining CITES certification.

See the indictment here:

The three suspects were arrested in early July during National Police operations in Cali, Colombia. González allegedly created and marketed products made from Colombian species such as the spectacled caiman and pythons. While not all of the animals were rare or endangered, the root of the crime, according to the US complaint, is smuggling the products into the US, bypassing the mandatory CITES procedure and required certifications. to import such animal products into the US, and bypassing customs. declarations by transporting the merchandise as personal effects.

According to the designer’s own website, says: “Nature is my best accomplice and my source of inspiration is life… I always try to push the limits of what can be done with precious skins”. The website goes on to say: “The collection is sold at over 300 luxury retailers worldwide including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrod’s, Tsum, Lane Crawford, Net-a-Porter to name a few. . Additionally, it has two boutiques in Seoul, Korea, and recently opened a third outlet at the IFC Mall in Hong Kong.”

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“Nancy Gonzalez is one of the key brands in our accessories department. We have had a hugely successful relationship with her for years. She is a true visionary who has revolutionized the precious fur market with her unconventional color schemes and designs,” Jim Gold, CEO of The Neiman Marcus Group, was quoted as saying on the designer’s site.

The three suspects were transferred to Bogotá where they await their fate.

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