BEIJING: A former employee of a private health clinic was sentenced to four years in prison by a Beijing court for smuggling pangolin scales.
The Beijing No 4 Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Wang Jinglai, 39, yesterday after a two-hour trial, and ordered him to pay a 40,000 yuan (RM23,660) fine.
On April 25 last year, Wang, then a staff member of a private clinic from Sishui county, Shandong province, was caught at Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport carrying pangolin scales in two black pieces of luggage.
He had arrived at the airport from Equatorial Guinea in West Africa where he had been helping provide medical care for the locals, according to the court.
Customs officers weighed the scales at 26.2kg and put their value at more than 958,000 yuan (RM566,661).
Wang said during the hearing that he bought the scales in a local market to use as medicine.
“I didn’t think the scales would be detected when I returned home, even though I was told they were prohibited in China at the overseas airport, ” he said.
However, Wang said he didn’t think he breached Chinese laws.
“I thought the heaviest punishment was that authorities would seize the pangolin scales, ” he said.
Chen expressed regret for his actions, saying he had pleaded guilty and accepted the penalty.
The court said given his confession and the remorse he had shown, he would be dealt with leniently.
The court heard 51 smuggling cases from Jan 1,2015 to Sept 30,2017, with more than one third related to wildlife or wildlife products, according to a report issued by the court at the end of 2017. A total of 54 defendants were sentenced for smuggling-related offenses over the period.
Ivory, rhinoceros horns and pangolin scales were the most commonly smuggled items.
The majority of smugglers were not well-educated and worked overseas. When they returned to China, they brought in illicit wildlife items they said were given to them or intended as gifts for family and friends, the report said. — China Daily/ANN