Pair guilty over turtle heads

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 12:00am

Two mainlanders have been given a suspended jail sentence for importing stuffed sea turtle heads and pangolin scales into Hong Kong.

At Eastern Court yesterday, sailors Zhang Jingdui and Hai Jianguo, both 50, pleaded guilty to charges of importing a highly endangered species and a scheduled species into the SAR.

The court heard that Customs officers found 11 stuffed sea turtle heads and 410 grams of pangolin (scaly anteater) scales on their boat, the Shui Cheng, when it was berthed at Western Anchorage, Sheung Wan, on Thursday.

The mainlanders, representing themselves, told Magistrate Ian Candy the items were for personal use.

'The sea turtles are for decoration for my restaurant,' Zhang said.

Hai said his herbalist told him that to cure his 'diseases', he had to consume one pangolin scale a day.

Mr Candy said there was an international treaty banning the importation of the species and China was one of the signatories.

He accepted that both defendants were unaware of the serious nature of their offence, but said their lack of knowledge was not a defence.

'The maximum fine is $25,000 and imprisonment of six months. Now you can see these are not minor offences,' Mr Candy said.

Both were sentenced to one month in prison, but Mr Candy suspended the sentences for one year. The men were also sent back to the mainland.