Man jailed 2 months for illegally importing 80 corals

A total of 75 hard corals and five soft corals wrapped in plastic bags lined with paper and concealed in ceramic mugs were seized by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.
A total of 75 hard corals and five soft corals wrapped in plastic bags lined with paper and concealed in ceramic mugs were seized by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.PHOTO: AVA/ICA

SINGAPORE - A man was sentenced to two months' jail on Wednesday (March 7) for illegally importing corals.

Cheng Yee Yong, 39, committed the offence last year. 

A total of 75 hard corals and five soft corals wrapped in plastic bags lined with paper and concealed in ceramic mugs were seized by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

The two agencies had acted on a tip-off and worked with a logistics company to follow up on an imported consignment of corals from the Philippines, which had been falsely declared as "plastic aquarium ornaments".

The corals have since been placed under the care of Resorts World Sentosa, said AVA and ICA in a joint statement.

Assistant curator Jason Lim said in an official blog post by RWS that most of the corals were in "poor to moderate condition when they arrived".

"About 12 pieces were in particularly bad shape, some of them were already rotting away. Only four to five pieces of corals were in excellent condition," said Mr Lim in the blogpost published in April last year.

Most of the corals are known as chalice corals, which can fetch high prices of up to US$2,000 (S$2,629) due to their vibrant colours.

The blog post added: "Once the corals are in good shape, they will be transferred to our habitats to add to the vibrant ecosystems."

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), hard corals are protected species. In this case, the hard corals were imported without a valid Cites permit, said AVA.

The soft corals, while not protected under Cites, can only be imported with an AVA permit.

Offenders who violate the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act may be fined up to $500,000 and/or face two years' jail.

"The Singapore Government has zero tolerance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts and derivatives," the statement added.

ICA said it will continue to conduct security checks on cargo, passengers and vehicles at the checkpoints to prevent attempts to smuggle in undesirable persons, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contrabands, while the AVA will continue to cooperate and collaborate with partner enforcement agencies to curb wildlife smuggling.

Travellers are reminded not to bring live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit. More information on bringing in animals from overseas can be found on AVA's website or its mobile app, SG TravelKaki.

Those who wish to alert the AVA on suspected cases of illegal wildlife trade can do so using their online feedback form or call 6805-2992. All information shared will be kept strictly confidential, it said.

"The public has a role to play in tackling illegal wildlife trade. Consumer demand is the impetus for poachers of endangered animals. The public can help reduce demand by not buying wildlife parts and products," the statement added.