Singapore

Two jailed for smuggling 12 live birds into Changi Airport

Two men jailed four months for smuggling birds

Two Vietnamese nationals were each jailed six months yesterday for illegally importing 12 birds from Ho Chi Minh City.

The estimated retail price for each bird here is about $1,800.

Businessman To Quoc Viet, 38, and his half-brother, Thai Anh Quoc, 48, who is jobless, were also given four months' jail - to run concurrently - for animal cruelty.

They pleaded guilty to importing 12 melodious laughing thrush of a scheduled species into Singapore through Changi Airport on Dec 9.

They also admitted to transporting the birds in two bags in a cramped manner.

One of the birds was found dead on arrival, while another had to be euthanised after it tested positive for avian influenza H3N8.

The birds were found in small plastic holders - six inside each bag - when the luggage was screened. The duo had answered "no" when asked if they had anything to declare.

While in Vietnam on Dec 7, Viet's brother Huy, a pet shop owner, instructed him to prepare to leave for Singapore as a potential buyer wanted him to carry the birds to the Republic.

Huy then sent someone to deliver the two bags with 12 live birds in 12 plastic rectangular boxes to the two men.

On Dec 9, Viet and Quoc left Ho Chi Minh City for Singapore.

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority prosecutor Yap Teck Chuan said there were holes on both ends of the plastic boxes for ventilation.

"The birds were housed in a cramped manner and there was hardly any space for movement," he said.

The 11 live birds were handed over to Jurong Bird Park, one of which was later found to have been exposed to the H3N8 virus before its arrival.

Mr Yap said stuffing the birds in small rectangular boxes inside the bags, which were checked into the airplane luggage holding compartment, was far worse than cases of birds being imported by land.

The birds had also been confined for more than 10 hours.

Each of the two men could have been fined up to $50,000 and/or jailed for up to two years for importing each scheduled species without a permit. The maximum penalty for animal cruelty is a $10,000 fine and 12 months' jail.

crimeAVAVietnam