Published 23 May 2013


UK hands down custodial sentence for coral smuggling

Manchester, UK, 23rd May 2013—A man has been jailed for attempting to smuggle more than 750 kg of rare and endangered corals and clams through the UK’s Manchester Airport from Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam.

UK Border Force seized more than 650 live hard corals and 60 live clams at Manachester airport. © UK Home Office

At Crown Square Crown Court, 23 year old Alex Montgomery from Manchester was sentenced to six months in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to smuggle the animals following his arrest by officers from the UK Border Force in May last year.

More than 650 live hard corals and around 60 live clams were discovered in 36 boxes labelled “Marine fish and Soft Corals” when officers examined a cargo that arrived on a flight from Viet Nam.

None of the undeclared items had the necessary permits and documentation required under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and consequently they were seized. 

Further investigations revealed 120 protected species at Montgomery’s business premises. They were seized along with his computer, which had information regarding his business dealings with foreign suppliers.

“The issuing of a custodial sentence for smuggling corals is a sign the UK authorities are prepared to get tough on the criminals who are illegally exploiting the world’s wildlife,” said Stephanie Pendry, TRAFFIC’s Enforcement Programme Leader. 

Under UK law, anyone convicted of contravening CITES regulations faces up to seven years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Vicky Allan, Assistant Director of Border Force, said: “Border Force takes its role in enforcing international agreements and prohibitions designed to protect the natural environment very seriously. 

“Anyone trading in protected creatures and plants should ensure they have the right paperwork before they import exotic animals into the UK.”

The case is not the first time corals have been seized at Manchester airport. In October 2009, a consignment of live corals from Australia was seized after Border Force officers found it was not accompanied by the appropriate CITES documentation.

Hard coral species and clams are extremely slow growing and take years to reach reproductive maturity. The illegal removal of coral from reefs has a dramatic impact on fish stocks and the ecosystem they support.