Saturday, September 25, 2010

MACC raids wildlife dept over ‘permit issue abuse’

September 25, 2010
The Star

PETALING JAYA: Anti-corruption officers raided the headquarters of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) in Cheras following allegations of abuse in the issuance of wildlife permits.

It was learnt that officers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Com­mission (MACC) went to the headquarters on Tuesday morning and carted away files, documents and laptops related to wildlife permits and licences to help in their investigations.

According to a source in the department, the MACC personnel asked for the office of a high-ranking officer in charge of the overall issuance and monitoring of wildlife permits and licences.

Although the officer, believed to be responsible for the support and recommendation in the approval of such permits was on leave, MACC personnel were allowed to enter the office.

It was believed that during the raid, several officers were also interviewed.

When contacted, a Perhilitan senior officer confirmed that MACC was at the headquarters to conduct an investigation but declined to elaborate.

He also refused to speculate if any wildlife permit issued to infamous wildlife trader Anson Wong or his family member had been revoked.

In confirming the incident, MACC investigations director Mustafar Ali insisted that it was merely “visit” and not a raid, but declined to comment further.

The headquarters is one of the three offices in the country - besides Penang and Johor branches - responsible for the issuance of wildlife permits.

There are three types of permits and licences for the handling of wild animals.

A licence is required to handle protected wildlife such as reticulated pythons and meerkats which fall under Schedule Two, Four and Five of the Protection of Wildlife Act while a special permit is necessary for totally protected species like Malayan tigers and Sumatran rhinoceros, and orang utan.

A Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) permit is required for all activities involving the import and export of wildlife listed under it such as snakes and turtles.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas had announced that the department would be undergoing a shake-up to weed out officers who were in cahoots with illegal wildlife traders.

The department had been dogged with allegations of corruption among its enforcement officers following Wong’s arrest at KL International Airport on Aug 26 for trying to smuggle out 95 boa constrictors, two rhinoceros vipers and a Mata Mata turtle without a permit while on transit from Penang to Jakarta, Indonesia.

The ministry, particularly Perhilitan, had been heavily criticised by conservation groups after Wong was sentenced on Sept 6 to six months’ jail and fined RM190,000 by the Sepang Sessions Court.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers is appealing against the sentence while a Penang National Park and Wildlife Department director was reportedly transferred to another state effective Oct 1.

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