PUTRAJAYA: International wildlife trader Anson Wong Keng Liang walked out a free man Wednesday after the Court of Appeal here allowed his appeal to reduce the jail sentence imposed on him for illegally exporting boa constrictor snakes without a permit.
Justice Datuk Wira Low Hop Bing, chairing a three-member panel, reduced Wong's jail term from five years to 17-and-a-half months.
The panel, also comprising Court of Appeal judges Datuk K.N. Segara and Datuk Azahar Mohamed, held that the 17 months and 15 days jail term, which Wong had served from Sept 7, 2010 until Wednesday would serve the interests of justice.
The court allowed Wong's appeal to set aside a Shah Alam High Court's decision in enhancing his jail term from six months imposed by the Magistrate's Court on him to five years jail.
"The appellant (Wong) would walk out this court today a free man in view of the custodial sentence he served," said Justice Low.
Justice Low said the High Court in enhancing the jail term on Wong, had erroneously considered certain facts such as the squeezing of the 95 boa constrictor snakes into a small bag, thereby torturing the snakes.
He said the High Court judge had also erroneously considered two venomous rhinocerous viper snakes (found in Wong's bag) but were not stated in the charge against Wong and also the fact that Wong was greedy in profit making.
Low said the charge against Wong was one of exporting the 95 boa constrictor snakes without a permit, therefore any other considerations would be outside the ambit of the charge which warranted the Court of Appeal's intervention.
He said the High Court did not make any reference to Wong's guilty plea.
"It is trite law that Wong's plea of guilt is a mitigating factor. It is trite law that the fact Wong was the first offender is another mitigating factor," he said.
The panel also affirmed the High Court's decision in setting aside the RM190,000 fine imposed on Wong by the Sepang Sessions Court as it was beyond the ceiling of RM10,000 which the Sessions Court could legally impose.
On Jan 24 last year, the 53-year-old trader obtained leave from the Court of Appeal to appeal against the decision of the High Court on Nov 4 last year which had enhanced his jail term from six months to five years.
On Sept 6, last year, the Sepang Magistrate's Court sentenced Wong to six months' jail and fined him RM190,000 after the Penangite pleaded guilty to illegally exporting the endangered species without a permit at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang at 8.50pm on Aug 26, last year.
Wong was in KLIA on transit from Penang to Jakarta when the snakes were found in his suitcase.
The High Court imposed the five-year jail term on Wong after allowing the prosecution's appeal for a heavier sentence. The court, however, set aside the RM190,000 fine.
Wong was represented by lawyer Datuk Seri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah while Deputy Public Prosecutor Manoj Kurup appeared for the prosecution. - Bernama