A 32-year-old Chinese national was recently convicted and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment by a magistrate’s court for allegedly trying to smuggle priceless exotic turtles from India to Shanghai in 2013. The court also ordered her to pay a fine of Rs10,000, stating that if she fails do so, then nine months simple imprisonment will be added to her punishment.
The woman, Ahiua Liao, is a resident of Shanghai in China. Her aide, Mohammad Yusuf Harun Khatri, was acquitted as the charges against him could not be proved. Liao’s punishment has been suspended for a month, during which she can appeal the sentence. Her passport was seized and the Chinese consulate has been informed.
Liao was booked under sections 9, 39, 40, 42, 48, 49 and 51 of The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Her lawyer pleaded for his client to receive the benefit of the Probation of Offender Act, under which the court releases offenders after admonishing them. However, chief metropolitan magistrate JS Mali ruled that the act could not be applied to this case. “The crime is a grave one. The turtles are useful for the ecological balance of the environment. The law is stringent on this point. Therefore, clemency cannot be granted to the offender,” said Mali.
According to the prosecutor, NR Paraskar, Khatri and Liao had smuggled 370 live turtles from Kolkata to Mumbai. Liao was to take them to Malaysia. On April 27, 2013, Liao was caught at the international airport by customs officials, when she was on her way to Shanghai. The officials suspected something amiss and asked Liao to open the three suitcases she was carrying. The turtles were found, following which, the concerned forest and environment ministry officials were alerted. Of the turtles, 168 were black spotted pond turtles, 88 were north Indian roofed turtles, 60 Dhongoka turtles, 50 were brown river turtles and four were eyed turtles.