KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian airport security arrested a convicted wildlife smuggler after finding almost 100 live reptiles in his luggage, the country's Wildlife and National Parks Department said.
Anson Wong, already convicted of trafficking in wildlife in the United States, was in transit from the Malaysian island state of Penang to the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Thursday when Airlines staff at Kuala Lumpur airport were alerted to a bag that had broken while on a conveyor belt.
The department, in a statement issued late on Saturday, said its found 95 boa constrictors, two rhinoceros vipers and a matamata turtle inside the luggage.
Boa constrictors are subject to regulations or a complete ban in international commercial trade as they are listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
The statement said Wong would remain in detention for two days. Under Malaysian law, if found guilty, he could face seven years in jail and fines of up to 100,000 ringgit ($32,000) for each animal or both.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Wong had previously pleaded guilty to a trafficking in the United States in 2001 and was sentenced to 71 months in jail.
TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring organization, said Malaysia must "rise to the challenge" of confronting new evidence of its role as an hub for those engaged in wildlife smuggling.
"Their attempt at mocking Malaysia's legal system must be dealt with head-on," said Kanitha Krishnasamy, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Senior Programme Officer.
On Friday, Thai customs officials found a two-month-old tiger stashed in a bag filled with tiger toys which had been checked in for an international passenger flight.
(Reporting by Royce Cheah; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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