Paltry sentence for smuggler

ALOR STAR: A Sessions Court yesterday sentenced a 30-year-old part-time welder to a paltry 24 months for keeping 22 tiger skeletons and bones, eight tiger skins, and nine elephant tusks at a house in Kota Sarang Semut, Kedah.

In February last year, Mohd Noor Sharmizan Nasir was charged under Section 68(1)(b) and 68(2)(c) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which came into force in Dec 2010.

Mohd Noor's charges were broken into three parts -- first and second for keeping tiger skin and bones under Section 68(2)(c) while the third for keeping elephant tusks under Section 68(1) (b) of the same Act.

Apart from these charges, he was also charged for allegedly possessing a deer antler but there was insufficient DNA evidence that led to that charge being dropped.

Section 68(2)(c) carries a fine of not less than RM100,000 and not more than RM500,000 and a jail term of up to five years for each offence or 24 months for each charge.

Section 68(1)(b) of the Act carries a fine of not more than RM100,000 or jail term of not more than three years, or both.

Despite the severity of the punishment outlined under this new Act, Mohd Noor -- who was found guilty for all three charges -- was only sentenced to a total of sixty months or five years in jail without a fine.

However, judge Mohd Rosli Osman ordered the sentences to run concurrently which meant that Mohd Noor, who was represented by lawyer Rahamathullah Baharudeen, only needed to serve 24 months in prison.

DPP Azlena Hashim who was assisted by Shahruddin Othman confi rmed they submitted their appeal against the court's decision to their State Prosecution Department. Mohd Noor is at present out on bail pending appeal.

Meanwhile, Traffic Southeast Asia regional director William Schaedla said the sentence imposed contradicted the provision of the law as the court did not issue such a fine.

"This is shocking given that the mandatory fine is explicitly stated in the Act. It is also disappointing as it took 13 years of hard work and effort to revise the laws to include a punitive minimum fine for heinous wildlife crimes," he said.

He added that it was learned that the defence in the case argued that the "crime in question" was insignificant because it did not involve loss of life.

While strongly disagreeing with the defence, he added that such arguments failed to recognise that the arrest was linked to the largest tiger seizure impounded from Mohd Noor's residence.

"The short jail term and the lack of a fine are a demoralising finale to what should have been a victory against wildlife crime.

"We hope the lapse does not crush the spirit of those authorities who are still working hard to protect Malaysia's 500 remaining tigers," he said in a statement.

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