Sr. Malaysian Official Admits Link Between Wildlife Department and Smuggler
This story ran yesterday in Malaysia’s The Star:
By YUEN MEIKENG
KUALA LUMPUR: Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) officers are transferred to another place every three years to prevent them from colluding with wildlife smugglers, said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas on Monday.
This practice came about in the heels of the case of international wildlife trader Anson Wong, who allegedly worked together with Perhilitan officers in smuggling animals.
“The standard operating procedures for Perhilitan have been changed so that wildlife trafficking can be contained.
“We realise that there are Perhilitan officers who may have been involved in Wong’s operations. We have conducted investigations but it has not been easy,” Uggah told the Dewan Rakyat when winding up the Budget 2013 debate at the committee stage.
He said “familiarity becomes a problem” when an officer has been in the same place for too long.
“The ministry is very concerned if there are any abuse of power and will ensure that our officers have a strong sense of integrity,” he said.
He said this when answering a question raised by Lim Guan Eng (DAP – Bagan) who asked whether the ministry had conducted a probe into allegations that Perhilitan officers conspired with Wong and what measures had been taken to ensure this would not recur.
Uggah said the ministry had cooperated with international agencies to prevent wildlife trafficking and had cancelled all licenses given to Wong and anybody related to him.
To a question by Yusmadi Yusoff (PKR – Balik Pulau), Uggah said the ministry respected the court’s decision, which reduced the jail sentence imposed on Wong for illegally exporting boa constrictor snakes without a permit.
On Sept 6 last year, the Sepang Magistrate’s Court sentenced Wong to six months’ jail and fined him RM190,000 after he pleaded guilty to illegally exporting the endangered species without a permit.
Upon an appeal from the prosecution for a heavier sentence, the High Court handed Wong a five-year jail term and set aside the fine.
However, Wong, from Penang, was released after the Court of Appeal allowed his appeal to reduce the jail sentence from five years to 17-and-a-half-months.