Putrajaya urged to set up inquiry into ‘Lizard King’ activities

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 — Following the expose by international news channel Al-Jazeera, DAP MP Dr Ong Kian Ming today urged Putrajaya to set up an inquiry into how the notorious “Lizard King”, or Anson Wong, had allegedly been able to continue with his illegal wildlife trade.

Ong said the Al-Jazeera 101 East programme — “The Return of the Lizard King” — aired on November 21, had raised many serious issues that must be answered by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri G. Palanivel.

“We call upon Minister G. Palanivel to hold a comprehensive inquiry into how Anson Wong was allowed to continue his activities in keeping and trading wildlife despite having his licenses revoked by Perhilitan in 2010 and to address the questions raised above.

“In the Al-Jazeera programme, Minister Palanivel said that he would clamp down on corruption in his Ministry. If this is the case, he should update the public as to the result of the MACC investigation into Perhilitan after Anson Wong’s arrest in 2010,” Ong said in a statement here.

It was reported last week that Palanivel had admitted to Al-Jazeera reporter and presenter Steven Chao to not being aware of Wong prior to the interview and appeared in the dark over sanctions supposedly imposed on Wong’s trade following his conviction in 2010.

Today, Ong, the MP for Serdang, asked why Wong had not been charged even after his arrest in August 2010 for transporting almost 100 boa constrictors. During the incident, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) had also raided Wong’s reptile sanctuary in Teluk Bahang where 50 wild animals were removed. 

Ong also questioned the outcome of the investigation from the arrest when Wong’s laptop and three phones were confiscated. 

While Perhilitan claimed that all wildlife trading and selling licences belonging to Wong and his wife had been revoked in 2010, Ong pointed out that their companies, Sungai Rusa Wildlife, CBS Wildlife, and Bukit Jambul Reptile Sanctuary, had wildlife trading activities listed as part of their business.

“If Perhilitan and the minister is serious about stopping the illegal wildlife smuggling activities of Anson Wong and his wife, why not use the powers under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 to raid all of the properties belonging to Anson and his wife to see if there is other wildlife there?” Ong asked.

101 East presenter Steve Chao found many animals from around the world, including this tortoise, at a rural property in Penang belonging to Anson Wong. — Picture courtesy of Al-Jazeera
101 East presenter Steve Chao found many animals from around the world, including this tortoise, at a rural property in Penang belonging to Anson Wong. — Picture courtesy of Al-Jazeera
He also questioned why Wong was not investigated and prosecuted based on the proof and testimony of student Sarah Sahondrarisoa, who was jailed for eight months for transporting bags containing wildlife into Malaysia, allegedly for Wong.

The DAP lawmaker pointed out that Perhilitan’s information on the owner of Rona Wildlife in Penang was outdated by four months, questioning the agency’s credibility.

According to a report by international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), Perhilitan last week confirmed that local authorities had again opened investigations on Wong after the exclusive documentary by Al-Jazeera revealed that Wong was still operating his illicit business.

“The department is investigating both,” Perhilitan enforcement division director Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim was quoted as telling the agency in an email on November 22, a day after the documentary was aired.

Abdul Kadir was referring to Wong and his wife Cheah Bing Shee, who is alleged to be complicit in the illegal trading activities.
AFP also reported that Abdul Kadir had confirmed that Wong’s previous licences for legitimate wildlife trading remained revoked after he was convicted and jailed in 2010 for smuggling snakes.

According to Chao who has been on Wong’s trail for over a year, the “Lizard King” had continued to operate openly in Penang even after an appellate court granted his freedom in 2012.

Wong even allegedly holds wildlife trading permits, although they were earlier revoked.
Chao said that far from being kept away from the trade, Wong continued to hold captive exotic animals such as rare tortoises, wild cats from North Africa, albino pythons, white and yellow snakes, deadly vipers, and chameleons in stash houses in Penang.

According to the reporter, one of Wong’s trusted distributors, an Indonesian, would bribe Customs officials here to allow wildlife to be shipped by boat from ports in Penang to Jakarta, a different method from the customary shipping by air.

The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth at least US$19 billion (RM61.1 billion) a year, according to the World Wildlife Fund in 2012.

The international conservation group also said last December that trafficking in wildlife — which is the fourth-largest illegal global trade after narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking — is being run increasingly by organised crime syndicates to buy weapons, to fund terrorists, and to finance civil conflicts.