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Persistence pays off – Singapore authorities’ successful prosecutions against wildlife crime
recognized by CITES Secretary-General Certificate of Commendation
Geneva, 22 July 2017 - The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore was today awarded with a Certificate of Commendation by the Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The CITES Secretary-General’s Certificate of Commendation formally recognizes exemplary enforcement actions, and was awarded to AVA in recognition of the great perseverance it demonstrated in securing successful convictions for illegal timber trade following the seizure of an illegal shipment of 3,235 metric tonnes (29,434 pieces) of CITES-listed rosewood (Dalbergia spp.) logs, on 14 March 2014. The market value of the logs was estimated to be in excess of USD 50 million.
Following the seizure, the AVA initiated a criminal case against the company that was identified as the consignee of the rosewood, and its managing director. The director and the company were prosecuted for importing a CITES-listed species into Singapore without the requisite CITES permit. The accused argued that the shipment was not “imported” into Singapore but merely “in transit” to another country, and that as such, different regulatory requirements applied. The accused company and its director were subsequently acquitted twice by a District court, but AVA persisted. After filing two appeals the High Court of Singapore, in March 2017, ruled that the charges brought against the accused had been proven beyond reasonable doubt. The High Court reversed the orders of acquittal and the managing director was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment and the maximum fine of SGD 500,000, and the company was sentenced to the maximum fine of SGD 500,000. The High Court also ordered that the rosewood logs be forfeited to the Government of Singapore.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Secretary-General John E. Scanlon said: “This case represents an excellent example of persistence paying off with the authorities in Singapore securing convictions against those involved in the illegal trade in CITES-listed specimens. The efforts by Singapore’s CITES Management Authority, the AVA, are testament to the outstanding work being done in Singapore to combat wildlife and forest crime. These convictions send a clear message that wildlife crime will not be tolerated in Singapore, and that those involved will be brought to justice.”
The Certificate was accepted by AVA Director-General Dr. Yap Him Hoo, who said: ”Singapore is honoured to receive the CITES Certificate of Commendation and would like to thank the CITES Secretariat for its strong support and assistance in our investigation of the rosewood case. Singapore has zero tolerance on the use of Singapore as a conduit for wildlife trafficking and timber smuggling. We adopt a multi-prong and whole-of-government approach underpinned by a robust enforcement regime to deter illegal wildlife trade. Besides rosewood, Singapore has also successfully made a number of seizures such as ivory, rhinoceros horns, pangolin scales, tortoises and turtles. The timely sharing of intelligence and information, international collaboration and cooperation between wildlife enforcement agencies and perseverance are important elements in combatting the illegal wildlife trade.”
The Certificate was presented during a joint session of the 29th meeting of the CITES Animals Committee and the 23rd meeting of the CITES Plants Committee, held in Geneva from 18 to 22 July 2017 and from 22 to 27 July 2017, respectively.
Note to editors: For more information, contact Liu Yuan at +41 22 917 8130 or yuan.liu [at] cites.org
With 183 Parties (182 countries and the European Union), CITES remains one of the world's most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora. Thousands of species are internationally traded and used by people in their daily lives for food, housing, health care, ecotourism, cosmetics or fashion.
CITES regulates international trade in over 36,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment. The CITES permit system seeks to ensure that international trade in listed species is sustainable, legal and traceable.
CITES was signed in Washington D.C. on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975.
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