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Published: Tuesday November 19, 2013 MYT 9:41:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday November 20, 2013 MYT 12:20:34 AM

'The Lizard King' is back in business, claims Al Jazeera (updated)

Anson Wong, aka 'The Lizard King' at the Sepang Sessions Court after he was sentenced to six months' jail for smuggling 95 snakes in 2010.

Anson Wong, aka 'The Lizard King' at the Sepang Sessions Court after he was sentenced to six months' jail for smuggling 95 snakes in 2010.

PETALING JAYA: Infamous wildlife smuggler Anson Wong, also known as 'The Lizard King' is rumoured to be back in the animal trafficking business.

Al Jazeera's 101 East presenter Steve Chao, who produced an investigative film about Anson Wong's smuggling business, said sources informed him that Wong is still in business.

Penangite Anson Wong, has been internationally recognised as the "face" of the animal trafficking trade.

His infamy stemmed from 1998 when United States agents arrested him after being lured to Mexico in an elaborate five-year investigation, and was the subject of the book The Lizard King by author Bryan Christy.

Wong was later convicted for smuggling endangered species and sentenced to 71 months in prison in the United States.

Since being released from prison there, Wong returned to Malaysia, with his permits revoked. However, many suspected that he had returned to the wildlife smuggling business.

Those fears were confirmed in 2010, when Wong's bag broke open while he was in transit to Jakarta to reveal 95 boa constrictors.

He was initially sentenced to five years in jail, but his term was reduced to 17 months on appeal and was released in February 2012, despite evidence of his involvement in other smuggling cases.

Wong currently resides in his hometown, Penang.

Malaysian authorities saying that his permits have been revoked, but new reports have surfaced of his return to the illegal wildlife trade.

"During our research, we received reports - almost daily - of shipments of ivory or of endangered species being routed from parts of Africa and Asia to customers worldwide," said Chao in his article published on Al Jazeera.

"It was soon clear to us that this black-market trade of pets and animal parts was massive - estimated at US$19bil (RM60.4bil) a year; and that it was only made possible with the help of government officials in their respective countries," he said.

Chao then set to track down the so-called face of the animal smuggling trade.

Posing as dealers, Chao and his team got inside Wong's syndicate. They spoke to his long-time distributors, allies-turned rivals, and even current-day employees.

"Sources told us that even while completing his prison sentence (for the earlier snake-smuggling attempt), Wong had continued trading in endangered species," said Chao.

Dr Chris Shepherd, Traffic South-East Asia deputy regional director, a wildlife trade monitoring network, said news of Wong's renewed smuggling activities was frustrating but he did not find it surprising.

"The links the media is making and the questions they are answering with their investigations are the very same ones NGOs and conservationists have been begging the government to look into for years.

Dr Shepard also said it was strange that media organisations appeared more interested in monitoring wildlife traffickers like Anson Wong than certain governments.

"The full (101 East) report, will presumably tell us more, but in the meantime we're really curious to see how enforcement agencies are going to respond," he said.

The 101 East programme on The Lizard King will air on Friday, 6.30am on the Al Jazeera Network, with repeats

Tags / Keywords: Crime, Illegal wildlife trade, Anson Wong, The Lizard King, Al Jazeera, 101 East

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