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December 22, 2010

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Man smuggled tortoise

A BUSINESSMAN was sentenced to six months in prison with probation of one year yesterday for smuggling an endangered species of tortoise.

Jin Junjie, a Zhejiang Province native, was also fined 5,000 yuan (US$750) by the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court. The tortoise was confiscated.

Jin told the court the African spurred tortoise was his pet and he didn't know it was a protected species. This was the first smuggling case the court had dealt with involving a live animal, judges said.

Jin, 23, flew with his girlfriend from Doha in Qatar to Pudong International Airport on June 28.

He didn't declare anything to Customs but officers spotted the tortoise, which weighs more than 25 kilograms, in his luggage.

Experts confirmed the reptile was an African spurred tortoise, which is listed as an endangered wild animal by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Species on the list are banned from being brought into China and smugglers face up to five years in jail.

Jin said he had bought the tortoise while in Sudan helping his father do business there. When he decided to return to Zhejiang in June for six months he took his pet with him as he had no one to look after it, Jin told the court.

He said he didn't know he should declare the tortoise to Customs. Prosecutors believed Jin intended to smuggle the tortoise because, as a frequent traveler, he should have known about Customs procedures.

Jin received a lenient punishment because he surrendered to police and hadn't smuggled for profit, judges said.


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