Vietnamese poachers could spend 12 years in jail if fine not paid, says lawyer

The recent punishment meted out to foreigners and locals is a clear message that one cannot get away with a minimum jail term and fine for killing protected animals

PETALING JAYA: Two Vietnamese who pleaded guilty to 20 counts of illegal possession of wildlife parts could spend 12 years in jail if they fail to settle their fines, a lawyer said.

A Srimurugan said the prison term was quite hefty under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 but this was no cause for complain.

“The court has taken cognizance that the government is serious in protecting the wildlife which is our national treasure,” he told FMT.

Srimurugan said the punishment was also a clear message to foreigners and locals that one could not get away with a minimum jail term and fine for killing, especially killing totally protected animals.

The lawyer said this in response to a case where the Kuala Terengganu Sessions Court sentenced Hoang Van Viet, 29, and Nguyen Van Thiet, 26, to two years jail and imposed a fine of RM1.56 million each.

Judge Azman Mustapha also ordered that the duo be jailed an additional 16 years if they failed to pay the fines.

Srimurugan said in all likelihood the two men will serve 12 years in jail after one-third remission by prison authorities should they fail to settle the fine.

“However, they could appeal against the sentence although they pleaded guilty to the offences,” he added.

They were charged with 20 offences under four sections of the law for illegal use of snares, illegal possession of totally protected species as well as protected species.

Under Section 68(2) (c) of the law, an offender can be fined up to RM500,000 and jailed a maximum five years for hunting totally protected animals like leopards and mountain goats.

Under Section 60 of the same law, an offender can be fined up to RM50,000 and a maximum two year’s fine for poaching protected animals like wild boars.

Killing this animal for food requires a permit from the Wildlife Department.

Traffic, an NGO that works against the global trade of wild animals and plants, said on its website that this was the first time in Malaysia’s history that a fine of more than RM1 million had been issued for a wildlife crime.

The two were found in possession of 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.

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.

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 on 10 charges under the same wildlife 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 to six years and fined RM400,000 by the Raub Sessions Court in Pahang.