PETALING JAYA: The Kuala Terengganu Sessions Court today fined two Vietnamese nationals RM1.56 million and sentenced them to two years jail after they were convicted of illegal possession of wildlife parts.
Traffic, an NGO that works on global trade of wild animals and plants, on its website, said this was the first time in Malaysia’s history that a fine of more than RM1 million had been issued for a wildlife crime.
They were found in possession of threatened and protected animal parts, including those of a leopard, serow and a sun bear.
They faced 20 charges under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.
The two men, Hoang Van Viet, 29, and Nguyen Van Thiet, 26, both pleaded guilty to charges under four sections of the law for illegal use of snares, illegal possession of totally protected species as well as protected species.
Judge Azman Mustapha also ruled that the duo would be jailed a further 16 years if they failed to pay the fines.
The case was prosecuted by Mohd Khairul Mubin Ab Satar, Abd Aziz Mohd Yasin and Khadijah Mat Amin, from Perhilitan.
They duo were arrested by officers from the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) on April 15 in Hulu Sungai Tersat in Taman Negara, Pahang.
They had 141 individual parts of serow (Capricornis sumatrensis), leopard (Panthera pardus), tapir (Tapirus indicus), sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), golden cat (Catapuma temnickii) and wild boar (Sus scrofa), and 22 snares.
Traffic said this case was an early success of the recently launched Ops Belang operation by the Malaysian government aimed at increasing boots on the ground to curb poaching, particularly of the Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni).
Malaysia is thought to have fewer than 200 wild tigers and the authorities have long been battling the scourge of snares set in its forests by poachers.
“It all begins with investing in enforcement and having boots on the ground. Imagine what we could do with more,” Traffic quoted Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim, Perhilitan director-general, as saying.
“This verdict gives us the drive to pursue wildlife criminals to the full extent of the law.”
Traffic said this was the second case in recent months where Vietnamese nationals had been caught poaching in Malaysian forests and brought to trial.
In March, it said Tran Van Sang, who was caught in Perak in August 2017, was sentenced to a total of 19 years’ jail and fined RM850,000 after being found guilty of 10 charges under the same wildlife law.
He was found to be in illegal possession of 273 wildlife parts including the tiger, leopard, clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), sun bear and sambar deer. All, except the sambar deer, are classified as totally protected species under the law.
Another Vietnamese, Ho Van Kien, faced six charges for possession of one full tiger skin, a partial tiger skin, one leopard claw, a sun bear claw as well as 150g of tiger meat and 21.15kg of wild boar meat under the same law after his arrest on July 4, 2018.
In March he was jailed for six years and fined RM400,000 by the Raub Session Court in Pahang.