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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former Royal Canadian Mounted policeman accused of smuggling $2 million worth of narwhal tusks into the United States is now in custody, pending his trial on money laundering charges, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday.
Authorities accuse Gregory Logan, 58, of St. John, New Brunswick, of having illegally smuggled since 2000 at least 250 narwhal tusks from Canada through Maine. Prosecutors said the profits from U.S. collectors were then used to further the smuggling activity.
Native to the Arctic, narwhals are a species of whale and have large, protruding tusks. They are protected marine mammals under U.S. and international law, though import permits are sometimes granted.
On Friday, Logan was extradited from Canada to the United States and is currently awaiting a May 3 trial in U.S. District Court on related money laundering charges, the Justice Department said.
Logan, who retired from the famed mounted police in 2003, was initially indicted in November 2012 on conspiracy, smuggling and money laundering charges. In December 2013, he was arrested in Canada at the request of the United States and pleaded guilty to related wildlife smuggling, according to authorities.
It was unclear why Logan's extradition to the United States took so long. His attorney, Kaylee Folster, did not immediately return messages.
"This case shows wildlife trafficking can involve millions in illegal transactions, compounding the damage it does to the wealth and diversity of life on our planet" Assistant Attorney General John Cruden said in a statement.
Two other men were also indicted in the case. Andrew Zarauskas of Union, New Jersey, was convicted and sentenced to 33 months in prison. Jay Conrad of Lakeland, Tennessee, pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Reporting by Marcus E. Howard; Editing by Sandra Maler