PETALING JAYA: The Kuala Terengganu Sessions Court has slapped a fine of RM1.56mil each on two Vietnamese nationals who were caught poaching.
This marked the highest ever fine issued for wildlife crime in Malaysia.
Hoang Van Viet, 29, and Nguyen Van Thiet, 26, were also sentenced to two years’ jail after being convicted of 20 charges under the Wildlife Conservation Act for illegal possession of threatened and protected animal parts.
According to Traffic Southeast Asia, the men 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 both men be jailed a further 16 years if they failed to pay the fines.
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) arrested the two poachers on April 15 in Hulu Sungai Tersat in Taman Negara and found them in possession of 141 individual parts of serow, leopard, tapir, sun bear, golden cat and wild boar, and 22 snares.
Perhilitan believed that the animal parts belonged to at least two clouded leopards, three sun bears and 12 wild boars.
The case was prosecuted by Mohd Khairul Mubin Ab Satar, Abd Aziz Mohd Yasin and Khadijah Mat Amin from Perhilitan.
Traffic Southeast Asia director Kanitha Krishnasamy said the judgment marked a victory for the Malaysian government.
“For the first time, fines exceeding RM1mil have been issued for wildlife crime. There is hope for creating a deterrent effect,” he said.
He added that it was an early success of the recently launched “Ops Belang” operation aimed at increasing boots on the ground to curb poaching, particularly of the Malayan tiger.
Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Xavier Jayakumar said the court outcome had given new hope for the ministry in its effort to curb wildlife poaching.
“This court decision will be a catalyst to double up on efforts to stop poaching and battle the elements that are destroying our wildlife and natural resources,” he added.
Perhilitan director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said the verdict gave them the drive to pursue wildlife criminals to the full extent of the law.
Traffic said that this was the second case in recent months where Vietnamese nationals caught poaching had been brought to trial.
In March, Tran Van Sang, who was caught in Perak in August 2017, was sentenced to a total of 19 years’ jail and RM850,000 in fines after being found guilty of 10 charges under the Wildlife Conservation Act. He was found to be in illegal possession of 273 wildlife parts, including tiger, leopard, leopard, sun bear and sambar deer.
Another Vietnamese, Ho Van Kien, was sentenced to six years in jail and RM400,000 in fines by the Raub Sessions Court after being found guilty of 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.