Woman jailed for illegal trade in wildlife has sentence doubled

Authorities in Vietnam discovered 13 king cobras, 300 turtles and other rare species during 2018 raid

Louise Boyle
New York
Friday 15 May 2020 22:41 BST
Millions of baby turtles make it to the sea

A woman who was jailed for illegal trade in wildlife in Vietnam had her prison sentence increased from two to five years this week.

Pham Thi Thuan, 58, was given more jail time following a hearing by an appeals court on 12 May in the central province of Quang Nam.

She had originally been sentenced to two years and a fine of 60m Vietnamese Dong ($2,560 USD). However prosecutors pushed for a harsher sentence.

Ms Thuan was found in possession of 13 king cobras, eight Bengal monitor lizards, nearly 300 turtles and other rare species without any documentation at her home in August 2018. The home was registered as a wildlife breeding facility, according to Vietnam Plus. The 58-year-old had been subject to administrative sanctions twice before in 2011 and 2013 for the unlawful possession of wildlife, the site reported.

The case was first reported by the Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), a non-governmental organisation which has tackled the illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam for the past 20 years.

ENV Deputy Director Bui Thi Ha commended the investigation while urging authorities to revoke Ms Thuan’s wildlife breeding licence.

The conservation group also reported that on 13 May, Tran Quy, director of company Hai Dang Ltd, received 13 years in prison and a 100m VND ($4,283USD) fine by the Provincial People’s Court of Ca Mau for operating a pangolin trafficking network through the ruse of an ecotourism business. Several accomplices also received jail time.

A recent report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found that Vietnam faces a huge wildlife trafficking problem ”with large-scale consignments of ivory and pangolin scales from Nigeria and other countries continuing to enter the country and vast quantities of tiger products available for sale”.

The country is taking steps to address the illegal wildlife trade. In 2018, penalties were increased for trafficking in endangered species. Criminals now face up to 15 years in prison and fines up to US$660,000, WildAid reported.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ordered a directive on banning wildlife trade and consumption in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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