The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry was told off by the DAP today for failing to take firm action against wildlife trader Anson Wong Keng Liang for smuggling endangered species despite various reports by the foreign and local media.
Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming said when Wong was arrested in August 2010 for attempting to smuggle 95 endangered boa constrictors to Indonesia, authorities seized his laptop and three mobile phones.
He said that there could have been valuable information about Wong's illegal wildlife trading activities in the laptop and mobile phones.
"The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) claimed in 2010 that it had revoked all the wildlife licences issued to Wong and his wife Cheah Bing Shee. But companies such as Rusa Wildlife, CBS Wildlife and Bukit Jambul Reptile Sanctuary are all still operating," Ong revealed.
"If Perhilitan is serious about putting an end to the wildlife smuggling which Wong and his wife are allegedly involved in, why do they not use their authority under the Wildlife Protection Act 2010 to check premises owned by the couple to see whether there are any endangered wildlife there?" asked Ong.
Al-Jazeera recently broadcast a show entitled "Return of the Lizard King" where one of its journalists went undercover to talk to wildlife dealers and said that Wong was believed to be trading albino pythons and other animals from his base in Teluk Bahang, Penang.
The Qatar-based network also showed documents which revealed shell companies used by Wong to conceal his alleged illicit activities. Illegal trade in wildlife is estimated to be worth at least US$19 billion (RM60.8 billion) annually.
Ong said if a news agency with no enforcement powers could dig up so much information about Wong and his illicit activities, there was no excuse for Perhilitan with its full enforcement powers not to do more and act on what they find.
Ong questioned Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel who was quoted as saying on the Al-Jazeera programme that he would clamp down on any corruption within his ministry.
“So where is the update on Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's investigations into Perhilitan after Wong's arrest in 2010?” Ong asked.
Although Wong has been described as the Pablo Escobar of the wildlife smuggling industry and has achieved worldwide notoriety, Palanivel told Al-Jazeera that he had never previously known of Wong or his activities.
Wong achieved notoriety in 1998 when he was arrested by agents from the United States after they lured him to Mexico in a highly elaborate five-year investigation that became a best-selling book, the Lizard King. He was sentenced to 71 months in prison in the United States in 2001 after pleading guilty to trafficking in endangered reptiles.
Following his release and return to Malaysia, fears that he continued to be involved in smuggling were confirmed in 2010 when his bag broke while waiting for his flight to Jakarta, revealing the boa constrictors.
After serving just 17 months of a five year jail sentence, Wong was freed by the Court of Appeal, a decision which outraged campaign groups.
Ong said it was time that Palanivel held a comprehensive inquiry into Wong's activities and how he was allowed to continue keeping and trading wildlife despite having all his licences revoked by Perhilitan in 2010. - November 29, 2013.