Thursday, 27 October 2016

Cousins Caught Smuggling Rare Turtles, Tortoise-Claiming to Work for the Dubai Police (Indian Star Tortoise and the Black Pond Turtle) – via Herp Digest

By Aditya Anand, Mumbai Mirror | Oct 15, 2016, 01.55 AM IST

Two cousins claiming to be working for the Dubai police force have been caught by the Mumbai Airport customs for attempting to smuggle out 199 tortoises of two species - the Indian Star Tortoise and the Black Pond Turtle – at the departure terminal on the night between Thursday and Friday.

Marwan Ali Hassan and Sultan Ibrahim Ali Alfaqi were found carrying two Black Pond turtles and 197 Indian Star tortoises in four trolley bags. They were set to board a Fly Dubai flight. In a voluntary statement to the customs, the two said that they had purchased the reptiles from Crawford Market after being offered a discounted price for several. Hassan claimed to be running an animal farm in Dubai. Given that the number of reptiles constitutes a commercial quantity, the customs officials did not buy the animal farm claim.

Their claims of being attached to the Dubai police force are also yet to be confirmed since the duo could not support the claim with any documentary proof. Officials of the United Arab Emirates Consulate also visited the airport.

Pradnyasheel Jumle, deputy commissioner of customs Air Intelligence Unit, told Mumbai Mirror that Hassan and Alfaqi were visiting India on a tourist visa. “Since the seized turtles fell under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, (offences under this schedule are awarded the highest penalty) the duo were handed over to the office of the Assistant Wildlife Wardens, Thane for further action,” Jumle said.

Range Forest Officer, S S Kank revealed that the two men were in their custody. “The two will be produced before a court on Saturday. We have also recovered the 199 reptiles,” Kank said.

Customs officials disclosed that they would continue with their investigation under The Customs Act, 1962, for attempted smuggling through an airport.

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