RM100m pangolin case thrown out
Published on: Tuesday, June 30, 2020
By: Cynthia D Baga
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The accused walking out of court.
Kota Kinabalu: A seafood dealer walked away a free man after the Sessions Court acquitted him of trying to export pangolin scales valued at more than RM100 million, in a case that grabbed headlines around the world.

 Judge Elsie Primus discharged and acquitted Chai Kok Hiong, 46, after considering evidence produced by both parties and concluded that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. 

 Chai was accused of attempting to export the prohibited goods that were kept in two containers and each containing 227 sacks of pangolin scales weighting 8,058.50Kg valued at RM100,570,080.

Pangolin - Photo Source: Bernama

 The offence allegedly took place at 2.35pm on July 13, 2017 at Sepanggar Port, near here.

 He was charged under Section 135(1)(a) of the Custom Act 1967 and punishable under Section 135(1)(iii)(aa) of the same Act carries a jail term of up to three years, or a fine between 10 times and 20 times of the goods value involved, or both, on conviction. 

 This meant the prospect of a fine of up to RM2 billion or jail. Pending disposal of the case, the accused was allowed bail of RM80,000 and was required to report to the KK Customs office every fortnight.

Twenty-seven prosecution and only one defence witness was called during the hearing.

 Deputy Public Prosecutor Nadia Isa conducted the prosecution while counsel Korvent E Jomiji defended Chai.

The prosecution said it would appeal against the decision.

 When it was reported that police and the Sabah Wildlife Department nailed a syndicate allegedly processing and smuggling unnoticed for seven years from a factory and warehouse in Sepanggar in February, last year, Malaysia made headlines and conservationists hailed it as a major triumph.

 The Kota Kinabalu and Tuaran police together with officers from SWD seized dozens of live pangolins, hundreds of frozen ones, pangolin scales and thousands of boxes containing pangolin meat estimated worth RM8.4 million, following a tip off.

 A 35-year-old local was caught red handed inside the plant which led to the seizure of processed and frozen pangolin meat, an endangered species.

 An inspection of a Proton Persona car also yielded 35 live pangolins in the boot and two plastic sacks containing pangolin scales and a digital weighing scale.

 After interrogation, the suspect led authorities to a warehouse in Kg Bontol, along the Tamparuli-Ranau road where three containers full of boxes of pangolin meat and scales as well as live pangolins were seized.

 Police at that time said the suspect arrested was the manager of the factory and that it had been operating for seven years with the pangolins sourced from poachers and meant for the local, Sarawak and international markets.


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