Malaysian man jailed for smuggling seven leopard tortoises in lorry through Singapore Woodlands Checkpoint

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers detained Arumugam Achunniah, 42, on July 22, 2020 after they found him in possession of leopard tortoises (pictured), an endangered species. — Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority/Facebook pic
Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers detained Arumugam Achunniah, 42, on July 22, 2020 after they found him in possession of leopard tortoises (pictured), an endangered species. — Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority/Facebook pic

SINGAPORE, Aug 6 — A Malaysian man was sentenced to two weeks’ jail yesterday for smuggling seven leopard tortoises in his lorry via the Woodlands Checkpoint last month.

Arumugam Achunniah, 42, pleaded guilty to a single charge under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, for importing a scheduled species into Singapore without a permit from the Director-General of Wildlife Trade Control.

Leopard tortoises, which are native to eastern and southern Africa, derive their name from the markings on their shells.

They are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), a multilateral treaty to protect endangered wild plants and animals.

Arumugam was a delivery driver who was supposed to be delivering toilet paper rolls and paper towels to a Singapore company, the court heard.

An acquaintance living in the same neighbourhood in Johor, Malaysia asked him to help take the tortoises to Singapore and deliver them to a Singaporean relative.

Arumugam was meant to meet his neighbour’s Singaporean relative after passing through Woodlands Checkpoint and would have been paid between S$20 and S$50.

He placed the box containing the tortoises behind the driver’s seat to ensure that the box did not fall or get crushed by other items in the driver’s cabin.

He did not know what species the tortoises were but knew that there were tortoises in the box.

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers detained him at the checkpoint at 10.35am on July 22.

When asked if he had anything to declare, he replied that he did not.

Officers searched his Malaysia-registered lorry and seized the animals before referring the case to the National Parks Board for investigations.

It is unclear if the Singaporean man was prosecuted.

ICA said in a Facebook post last month that the Wildlife Reserves Singapore have taken in the tortoises.

Arumugam could have been fined up to $500,000 or jailed up to two years, or both. — TODAY

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