The Kuala Terengganu Sessions Court has meted out a whopping RM1.56mil fine on two Vietnamese nationals caught poaching, making it the biggest fine ever imposed for wildlife crime.
The two men, Hoang Van Viet, 29, and Nguyen Van Thiet, 26, were also sentenced to two years in jail after being convicted on 20 charges under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 for illegal possession of threatened and protected animal parts, including leopard, tapir and sun bear.
According to Traffic South-East 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 athe duo would be jailed a further 16 years if they failed to pay the fines.
Perhilitan arrested the two poachers on April 15 in Hulu Sungai Tersat in Taman Negara, Pahang and found them in possession of 141 individual parts of serow, leopard, tapir, sun bear, golden cat and wild boar, plus 22 snares.
Perhilitan believes the animal parts belong to at least two Malayan tigers, two clouded leopards, three sun bears and 12 wild boar.
The case was prosecuted by Mohd Khairul Mubin Ab Satar, Abd Aziz Mohd Yasin and Khadijah Mat Amin, from Perhilitan.
Traffic South-East Asia director Kanitha Krishnasamy said the judgement marked a victory for the Malaysian government.
“For the first time, fines exceeding RM1mil have been issued for wildlife crime.
“There is hope in creating a deterrent effect,” Kanitha 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.
According to the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry, Malaysia has fewer than 200 wild tigers and the authorities have declared a war against poachers.
“It all begins with investing in enforcement and having boots on the ground. Imagine what we could do with more,” said Perhilitan director-general Datuk Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said.
“This verdict gives us the drive to pursue wildlife criminals to the full extent of the law,” he added.
Traffic said this is the second case in recent months in which Vietnamese nationals were caught poaching and 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 fined RM850,000 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, clouded 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 Session Court after being found guilty of possession of one full tiger skin, a partial tiger skin, one leopard claw, and a sun bear claw, as well as 150g of tiger meat and 21.15 kg of wild boar meat.