Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Reptile skin smuggler jailed, fined.

Reptile skin smuggler jailed, fined
By Elena Chong
Saturday, September 23 2006.
The Straits Times, Home, H4.

An Indonesian seaman who smuggled in 11 bales of reptile skins last Thursday was sentenced to four months in jail and fined $10,000 yesterday.

Ali Mirhan, 24, a crew of the barge Sindora Seraya, pleaded guilty to importing 104 monitor lizard skins, six blood python skins and about 4,080 reticulated python skins from Indonesia without a permit.

He will serve an additional two months in jail as he was unable to pay the fine.

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) prosecuting officer Yap Teck Chuan said an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) anti-smuggling team, acting on information, boarded the vessel at the Eastern Working Anchorage at about 4pm last Thursday.

They found 11 bales of skins worth about $250,000 hidden between canisters of fire extinguishers.

The reptiles are all protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Ali said he was paid 100,000 rupiah (S$17) by an Indonesian-Chinese man in Selat Panjang to bring the reptile skins over. He was promised another $50 if the items were delivered successfully.

Singapore has often been labelled a centre for the illegal wildlife trade and criticised for being relax in enforcing laws.

"This is very damaging for Singapore, especially our international image, that we are a 'laundering' centre for illegal wildlife, particularly wildlife from biodiversity-rich neighbouring countries," said Mr Yap, who pressed for a deterrent sentence.

Parliament amended the law in March, increasing the maximum fine from $5,000 to maximum $500,000, and the maximum jail term doubled to two years.