Friday, February 24, 2012

Anson Wong - culmination of chronic failures in prosecution and investigation

Friday February 24, 2012 MYT 1:37:00 PM
Jail term cut for wildlife trader Anson Wong condemned

PETALING JAYA: Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic has condemned the decision to allow convicted wildlife trader Anson Wong to walk free, calling it a “culmination of chronic failures in prosecution and investigation”.

Its South-east Asia regional director Dr William Schaedla said the prosecution had failed to produce any new charges or evidence in the past year and a half despite claming further investigations were part of its strategy.

He pointed out that Wong's laptop and mobile phones, confiscated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), should have provided the prosecution insight into his international wildlife trade dealings.

“There is no indication that Wong's business contacts or associations were ever investigated,” he said in a statement on Friday.

Wong, who was convicted on Sept 6 last year of illegally exporting boa constrictors by the Sepang Sessions Court, was initially sentenced to six months jail and fined RM190,000.

Heated protests by non-governmental organisations and the public resulted in the High Court's decision to extend his jail term to five years.

However, the Court of Appeal through a three-member panel chaired by Justice Datuk Wira Low Hop Bing, agreed on Wednesday to reduce Wong's jail term from five years to 17 months and 15 days.

Dr Schaedla also refuted Justice Low's statement that Wong, 54, was a first-time offender, pointing out that he was previously sentenced to 71 months jail and fined US$60,000 (RM180,629) for money laundering linked to wildlife trade in the United States.

“It beggars belief that no effort was made to introduce these prior infractions in the context of the present case,” he said, adding that Wong was also reported compounded for a previous permit violation here.

Dr Schaedla said it now fell to the the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to ensure Wong's licenses remain revoked so he would be unable to trade in any wildlife.

He said Malaysia's push for better laws and enforcement were useless if these were how wildlife cases were treated and warned that this would have long-term impact on the fight against wildlife crime.

“Traffickers will simply work small fines and short jail stays into their calculations as a cost of business. Frontline authorities who put their lives at risk catching these criminals will be defeated in their efforts,” he said.

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