Indonesian jailed for smuggling in rare marine species

SINGAPORE - An Indonesian man was jailed for four months on Friday for trying to smuggle in endangered species worth nearly $27,000.

Raja Jufri, 33, pleaded guilty in a district court to bringing in 131 items from Indonesia in violation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

In a surprise check on vessels at Jurong Port on May 28, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers found two red plastic bags in the kitchen area of the boat M.V. Kartika Sari Hwj at 8pm.

There were 31 pieces of seahorses, 22 giant clams, and 78 pieces of coral.

Raja, who admitted ownership of the items, was unable to produce permits for their import and the matter was referred to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for investigations.

Court papers indicated that at 5.30pm that same day, Raja had received the two plastic bags from an Indonesian friend he knew only as Izam at the Sekupang wharf in Batam in Indonesia.

Upon his arrest at Jurong Port, the smuggled items were sent to the Underwater World, Singapore, for species identification.

In pressing for a jail term to be imposed, the AVA prosecuting officer Edwin Ignatious said that one of the biggest threats to the survival of endangered flora and fauna was the illegal trade in wildlife species.

"The more endangered a species, the more coveted it is by traders and collectors," the AVA officer added.

Raja, who did not have a lawyer, said he received only $40 to smuggle the items in.

He pleaded for leniency as he has a wife and two young children to support.

He could have been fined up to $50,000, or jailed up to two years, or both.

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