Investigative journalist Julian Rademeyer has written a guest post for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) on the “’Mr Big’ of wildlife crime in Laos”, Vixay Keosavang, who runs the Xaysavang syndicate. Rademeyer exposed the syndicate, first writing about it in 2011 and investigating it further in Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade.
Rademeyer writes that after spending two years researching the syndicate and gathering hundreds of pages of documents on Xaysavang, Keosavang’s name only comes up 16 times: “He remained largely in the shadows, a distant puppet-master reaping the rewards of the killing but rarely dirtying his own hands.”
One of Keosavang’s main lieutenants in South Africa, Chumlong Lemtongthai, is currently serving a 30 year sentence here in South Africa, reduced on appeal from 40 years. However, despite the $1 million reward being offered for information on the syndicate, Rademeyer writes that Keosavang remains untouchable as the Loatian government seems to have no interest in taking action against him. He also points out that there are many other syndicate heads that aren’t known and who “continue to feed a seemingly insatiable market for contraband wildlife products.”
Vixay Keosavang is one of the most ruthless and prolific wildlife criminals operating in South-East Asia today. Some call him the “Pablo Escobar of animal trafficking”. Others describe him as the “Mr Big” of wildlife crime in Laos, the tiny one-party communist state bordered by Myanmar, China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam that continues to harbour him.
The criminal syndicate he oversees, dubbed the “Xaysavang network” after the name of an import/export company he established in 2008, has been implicated in the smuggling and slaughter of thousands of animals including pangolins, primates, reptiles, snakes, rhinos, elephants, lions and tigers.
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