Rare turtles smuggled via Sri Lanka to Hong Kong and Singapore

Rare turtles are being smuggled out of India to Hong Kong and Singapore through two routes including one via Sri Lanka, investigations have revealed.

Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization) has sent intelligence inputs to wildlife officials in Madhya Pradesh regarding the alleged wildlife crimes of Manivannam Murgesan, accused of being an international turtle smuggler who was arrested by MP’s special task force (STF) wildlife crimes from Chennai earlier this month, The Hindustan Times quoted senior STF officials as saying.

STF will now write to the Interpol to get a red corner notice issued against the Murgesan, accused of being the kingpin of India’s illegal turtle trade market so that he could be prosecuted in Thailand where he is wanted in alleged wildlife crimes, said STF officials.

The communiqué sent by Interpol environmental security program states, “We would like to congratulate India on the arrest of Manivannan Murugesan. Manivannan Murugesan is suspected to be a big turtle smuggler. He has been under review for a few years…”

Confirming the development, Ritesh Sirothia in-charge STF (wildlife crime) said after they arrested Murgesan from Chennai and brought him to MP, they wrote to Interpol, urging it to provide details about his wildlife crimes in other countries.

“We didn’t want that he should get a bail and abscond like has happened in some earlier cases with us. So to make our case more strong before the judge, we wrote to Interpol about our big catch and asked them to provide us details about his crimes in other countries. They not only provided us with the details of his crimes, they also lauded us for the big catch, who operates in many countries”, he said.

In October 2016, Interpol’s environment crime wing had issued a red corner notice against international wildlife smuggler Jaiy Tamang alias Passang Limi, who hails from Tibet, following a request by MP’s wildlife department in a case pertaining to smuggling of pangolin and tiger bones. STF had arrested the 42-year-old Jaiy Tamang from Delhi in October 2015, but he absconded after securing bail in MP later. STF officials said as he operates in the entire South Asia, especially Nepal, Tibet, China, Myanmar, they were not sure about his whereabouts now.

The ongoing investigation by STF has unveiled a pan-India poaching and trafficking network that smuggles rare turtles out of the country to Hong Kong and Singapore through two routes-one via Madras-Sri Lanka and other through Kolkata-Bangladesh route.

Sirothia said Murgesan was a Singapore based businessman and had illegal trade links in Thailand, Malaysia, Macau, Hong Kong, China and Madagascar besides Singapore.

On February 1, four-member STF team led by Ritesh Sirothia had brought Murgesan to MP after arresting him in Chennai and presented him before the Special Court at Sagar. According to STF officials, Murgesan was wanted by STF, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and Uttar Pradesh STF for a long time. (Colombo Gazette)