Airport police charged with wildlife smuggling
- Published: 6/03/2013 at 09:32 PM
- Online news:
Police have filed criminal charges in connection with trafficking illegal rhinoceros horns into the country against three junior officers stationed at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Pol Sgt Maj Samai Ratchjangvang, Pol Sgt Jakkapan Panprasert and Pol Sgt Phetcharit Panthaisong, all of the Suvanabhumi Police Station, were summoned on Wednesday to hear charges by the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division.
They face allegations of smuggling wildlife or carcasses, and attempted tax evasion, according to Pol Maj Gen Norasak Hemnithi, the division chief.
Pol Sgt Maj Jakkapan Panprasert, left, and Pol Sgt Phetcharit Panthaisong of Suvarnabhumi Police Station are two of the three officers charged with wildlife trafficking on Wednesday. (Photo by Surapol Promsaka na sakolnakorn)
Police suspect they are linked to an international wildlife smuggling syndicate, as the seized products are believed to be sent out of Africa to Vietnam, starting in Mozambique and transiting Thailand, he added.
The three denied the charges and said they will fight the case in court.
The officers were arrested on Jan 6 while trying to take a bag out through a customs lane at the airport, telling authorities that it belonged to a pooyai', according to the division commander. The claim prompted the customs officials and police to check on the luggage and they allegedly found four horns weighing 10.6 kilogrammes, estimated to be worth 12.7 million baht on the black market.
Authorities traced the bag and found that the owner was Pham Quang Loc, a Vietnamese citizen, flying into Bangkok from Mozambique by Ethiopia Airlines on that day. He was waiting to catch another flight to Vietnam.
The wildlife police interrogated Mr Loc, filed smuggling charges against him and sent him to await trial at Samut Prakan Prison, Pol Maj Gen Norasak said. Police also issued an arrest warrant for his interpreter, Loy Chanthawongsa, a female Lao, who managed to escape from the airport.
The alleged crime was committed on Jan 6 but the three officers were charged on Wednesday because, according to the division chief, they had been found to have connections with the Vietnamese suspect.
The move was made as Bangkok hosts the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center.
Thailand is being targetted by conservationists who put pressure on the country to ban ivory trade to save African elephants. Trying to crack down on illegal trade in rhino horns was also on the agenda of the meeting.
The Cites said on Wednesday that more resources are needed to stem the flow of the illegal African ivory trade.
A large amount of confiscated African ivory disappears every year and the culprits are likely to be linked to organised crime, Cites said.
Cites said cross-checks and transparency are required to monitor stockpiled African ivory that has been confiscated by authorities in Africa and Asia.
Julian Blanc, coordinator of Cites' Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants programme (Mike), said about 10 million tonnes of confiscated African ivory has disappeared from stockpiles under state agencies in Africa and Asia.
It is believed the amount will continue to grow unless effective measures are put in place to control the stocks.
"We do need to have an effective mechanism to report on the existing amount of confiscated African ivory through a well-managed database, which can be widely inspected by the members. We want to know who has the ivory and where it is," Mr Blanc said. He said the number of slain elephants in Africa was estimated at 17,000 in 2011, which is 7.5 per cent of the continent's elephant population.
The increasing number of killed elephants was due to the strong ivory demand in China - the world's largest consumer of African ivory - in line with the country's strong economic growth.
Mr Blanc was speaking to reporters to present a new report, "Elephants in the Dust: The African Elephant Crisis", produced by the UN Environment Programme, Cites, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Traffic, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network.
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