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Two ex-Customs officers are escorted from court in Malaysia following sentencing for possession of protected wildlife species

Two ex-Customs officers are escorted from court in Malaysia following sentencing for possession of protected wildlife species

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Published 30th October 2018

Malaysia hands down hefty sentence to ex-Customs officers caught in illegal possession of wildlife

Sepang, Malaysia, 30th October 2018—A Malaysian court has sentenced two ex-Customs officers to a total of five years in jail and MYR230,000 (USD55,082) in fines each, on several charges of illegal possession of 31 Black Spotted Turtles Geoclemys hamiltonii—a species under tremendous threat from the illegal international commercial trade.


The men were arrested on 12th May 2016 with two bags containing 31 of the CITES[1] Appendix I listed turtles at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2). They were both serving Customs officers at the time of the arrest.

The men, who worked in a separate facility in the area, were apprehended after lifting the two bags off a carousel at KLIA 2. The bags contained six adult, six immature, and 19 female turtles. This resulted in three separate charges under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

Abdul Razak Abdul Shukor, 29, and Mohd Hazwan Musa’Almudin, 31, were each given the maximum sentence for the first charge—possession of a totally protected species without a special permit, which is three years jail and MYR100,000 (USD23,949) in fines. On the second charge of illegal possession of an immature wildlife individual, they each received a year’s jail, and MYR80,000 (USD19, 159) in fines. On the third charge of illegal possession of female wildlife, they were given a year’s jail, and fined MYR50,000 (USD11,974).

Judge Mohd Faizal Ismail ordered the men’s prison terms to run concurrently from the date of arrest but also allowed a stay of execution on the prison terms, pending an appeal.

This is one success in a long battle and PERHILITAN, following this success, will continue to be vigilant against the use of Malaysia's ports and airports to smuggle wildlife. The public can help by continuing to report wildlife crime

Dato Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim, Director-General of Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN)

The PERHILITAN Prosecuting Officer Nazarudin Kamarudin had earlier urged the court to issue a deterrent sentence. He argued that Abdul Razak and Mohd Hazwan were frontline officers entrusted with safeguarding the country’s entry points but had taken advantage of the power vested in them.

Nazarudin told the Sepang Sessions Court that Black Spotted Turtles Geoclemys hamiltonii were already classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List™ of Endangered Species and that the smuggling of the reptiles was an increasingly serious problem. He also said the men’s actions had reflected poorly on the country’s image and had contributed to it being labelled as a wildlife transit and trafficking hub.

 “Today’s verdict is a demonstration of Malaysia’s commitment to tackle wildlife crime. This is a win not just for the country’s efforts to stamp out this problem, but also one for a globally threatened species that is heavily trafficked. We hope this serves as a warning for criminals conspiring to exploit their networks and connections within law enforcement,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

TRAFFIC’s research has shown the reptile to be an increasingly popular pet and favoured among wildlife smugglers with many turtles observed for sale in Asian markets or in online trade.

A recent study revealed that at least 10,321 live Black Spotted Turtles were confiscated in 53 seizures between April 2014 and March 2016.


Notes:

[1] CITES is the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of WIld Fauna and Flora