Perhilitan and police are alleged to have neglected questioning a key witness to the global traffic in exotic species.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian authorities recently wasted a rare opportunity to get vital information from a key witness to a global wildlife trafficking syndicate involving the notorious Anson Wong, according to PKR vice-president and human rights lawyer N Surendran.

The authorities merely imprisoned the witness for eight months and deported her back to Madagascar last Saturday, Surendran told a press conference today.

The witness, Emillienne Justine Sarah, 21, was arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in July 2010 for smuggling exotic species of turtles, chameleons and snakes into the country.

Last June 23, more than a week before her deportation, she lodged a police report disclosing details of the wildlife racket involving Wong and an accomplice known only as Vijay.

However, Surendran alleged, neither the police nor the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) took action on the report.

“She even indicated in her report that Vijay has a shop with exotic animals at Jones Street, Penang. Did the police take any action to apprehend him?”

According to Surendran, Sarah also alleged that when she was detained at KLIA, an officer in a blue uniform who was interrogating her took away about 20 turtles and placed them under his own desk.

“This shows that even some of our officers are working in cahoots with the smugglers,” he said.

He called upon Perhilitan director-general Abd Rasid Samsudin to respond to his allegation. He said Perhilitan was in possession of Sarah’s mobile phone and that it had Vijay’s contact number.

“Although Wong is in prison, his illegal business is still thriving, with Vijay running it. Either Rasid is ignorant about this or he just doesn’t care.”

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri of Lawyers for Liberty, who was at the press conference, urged the authorities to view wildlife trafficking seriously.

She said: “Previously, we were famous for infringing on human rights. Now we are becoming famous for wildlife trafficking. As a civilised nation, we should protect the rights of both man and animals.”

Wong, known internationally as the Pablo Escobar of the wildlife trade, was sentenced to six months’ jail and fined RM19,000 by a Malaysian court last September.

He was arrested at KLIA the previous August for possession of 95 boa constrictors without a permit.

Previous to that, he had served 71 months in a US prison for a similar offence.

G Vinod | July 6, 2011