Turtle importer jailed for animal cruelty and having endangered species without permits

SINGAPORE - A garment businessman from India was jailed for 16 months on Friday for importing 190 black pond turtles from Bangladesh and animal cruelty.

Jaiswal Arun Harish Chandra, 42, admitted to having the endangered species without valid permits while on transit at Changi Airport on Jan 7. He also pleaded guilty to allowing the turtles to be confined in a manner that subjected them to unnecessary pain or suffering.

The Surabaya-bound turtles were found crammed in three luggage bags without water or food provided.

Over the next five days, 47 died. The rest were put to sleep for welfare reasons.

A district court heard that Jaiswal was in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to source for garments when an acquaintance, known as Irfan, offered him 25,000 Bangladeshi taka (US$325) to make a trip to Surabaya, Indonesia, to deliver turtles.

After making a successsful trip on Dec 15 last year, Irfan contacted him several times to make another trip.

On Jan 6 this year, Jaiswal went to the airport in Dhaka and met a man who accompanied him to check in the three luggage bags.

While in transit at Changi in the early hours the next day, he heard his name being called on the public address system.

He was detained and brought to a room. When he opened the three luggage bags, the 190 live turtles were found in crammed together with hardly any space to move.

All 190 turtles, worth $95,000, were sent to Wildlife Reserves, Singapore Zoo, for an expert opinion on the species. Their condition was poor. After 47 died, the rest were put down as they showed signs of sickness.

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority prosecuting officer Yap Teck Chuan sought a deterrent sentence, saying Jaiswal had brought adverse reputation to Singapore, which is a Cites party, as a transhipment hub for illegal wildlife.

Cites refers to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Jaiswal's acts were also hard to detect, given the fact that some 50 million passengers pass through Changi Airport a year.

Jaiswal could have been fined up to $50,000 for each scheduled species, jailed up to two years or both. For cruelty, the maximum penalty is a $10,000 fine and 12 months' jail.

elena@sph.com.sg