Exotic animal smuggling racket busted; DRI seizes hundreds of snakes and iguanas from Malaysia

There were turtles and other reptiles, such as lizards and pythons, in some of the packages | YOF

Mumbai: Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) officials have arrested two people for allegedly smuggling 665 exotic animals including turtles, tortoises, pythons, lizards and iguanas from Malaysia. While 548 animals were found alive, the rest were dead. The consignment, with an estimated market value of Rs 2.98 crore, was seized by the DRI, sources said on Saturday.

Those arrested were identified as Dharavi resident Immanvel Raja and Mazgaon resident Victor Lobo.

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According to the DRI, specific information has been received that a shipment from Malaysia is arriving at the Air Cargo Complex (ACC) in Sahar on Wednesday evening which is said to contain live exotic animals in the guise of aquarium fish. Agency officials then intercepted a vehicle in Vile Parle which was carrying the shipment after receiving it from ACC and heading towards Dharavi.

The vehicle was then returned to ACC so that the contents of the packages could be examined. Upon arriving at the ACC all parcels totaling 30 were unloaded from the vehicle for examination and upon opening a few parcels of the shipment it was noticed that there were turtles and other reptiles like lizards and pythons in some of the packages hidden under trays on which fish were kept, sources said.

There were turtles and reptiles, such as lizards and pythons, in some of the packages | YOF

With no expertise to handle said animals, a team from the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) was called in for assistance in the examination and inventory.

Out of a total of 30 boxes, 16 boxes contained declared items i.e. different varieties of ornamental fish and 13 boxes contained a total of 665 animals of different varieties of reptiles and wild animals such as the tortoise, tortoise, python. , Lizard and Iguana and a box turned out to be empty.

There were turtles and other reptiles, such as lizards and pythons, in some of the packages

There were turtles and other reptiles, such as lizards and pythons, in some of the packages | YOF

“Raja in his statement to DRI said that he imported the shipment which contained live animals such as turtles and reptiles from a certain David Lu from Malaysia and that Lu ordered said shipment to be handed over to a certain Victor Lobo. Raja also admitted that he received Rs 9 lakh cash from Lu via Lobo for customs clearance of the said consignment. Raja admitted that he knew that the consignment contained live animals such as turtles and reptiles,” said a DRI official.

The agency’s sources claimed that Lobo in his statement said that he deleted some content from his cell phone and also destroyed the SIM card when he learned that the said shipment had been captured. Lobo also admitted to paying Rs 9 lakh to Raja on Lu’s instructions. The importation of such animals is prohibited under the Customs Act.

Attorney Sujay Kantawala, who appeared as defense counsel for both defendants, said his clients were unlawfully detained.

“Five people have been arrested. While some of them have been released, two were arrested on Saturday morning. If detention exceeds 24 hours, bail is a matter of law. according to DRI’s allegations, “It’s also a bailable offense. My clients are innocent. Moreover, the value given in the panchnama is very inflated and has not been backed up by any expert assessment,” Kantawala said, adding that his two clients had been released on bail by the court.

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