|Wildlife smuggler Anson Wong being escorted at the sessions court in Sepang, Malaysia in 2010.|
It has been recently reported that the infamous Anson Wong, also known as the "Lizard King", has returned to work despite his conviction in 2010 for illegally smuggling endangered reptiles. He was apprehended in August 2010 at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for attempting to traffic 95 boa constrictors to Indonesia, and was sentenced to five years in prison. However, a Malaysian appeals court freed him in 2012 resulting in public outcry. Authorities stated that in the followup of Wong's arrest, his licenses for legal wildlife trading were eliminated. But this time, an Al Jazeera reporter Steve Chao, who went undercover to talk with Wong's colleagues and wildlife dealers, revealed that he and his wife Cheah Bing Shee were assumed to be trafficking albino pythons and other animals from their base in the northern state of Penang. The report indicated that trade in pythons demands a permit, and that Wong is using shell corporations to shield his activities. Furthermore, the report also stated that several off Wong's former colleagues claimed that corrupt customs officials in Indonesia, Madagascar, and Malaysia were assisting his activities. In a press release, Al Jazeera stated that Mr. Chao and his team worked with anti-trafficking groups to trace Wong's operation. According to Malaysia's wildlife department enforcement director Kadir Hashim, Wong's permits remained eliminated and added that the "department is investigating both Wong and Cheah" in an email response to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) inquiry.
This article clearly represents of what major figures in the illegal wildlife trade do once they are freed through court appeals. In this case, it is Anson Wong who is described by many wildlife groups as one of the most active smugglers of endangered wildlife. Despite his charges consisting of smuggling 95 boa constrictors from Malaysia to Indonesia three years ago, Wong was able to walk away a free man when an appeals court granted him freedom last year. The result sparked a public outrage, and showed no sign of hope for the protection of endangered species not just in Malaysia but in other parts of the world. Now, it has been found that this infamous trader has returned to his illicit business along with his wife. This can definitely spell trouble for both endangered wildlife and conservation groups worldwide. At this moment, investigations regarding Wong and his activities is still pending and I certainly hope that when he is arrested again, the courts will reconsider their verdicts based on whatever evidence gathered from law enforcement agencies and the media that can help in Wong's prosecution and sentencing.
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