Vietnam fines man for transporting pangolins in ambulance

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A Phu Yen forest ranger inspects bags of pangolins seized from driver Le Van Tung, 26, in Dong Hoa District a month ago. Tung was fined VND450 million (US$21,150) for illegally transporting the pangolins with an ambulance carrying fake license plates. Photo by Duc Huy  

The People's Committee in the central province of Phu Yen said Monday it had imposed a fine of VND450 million (US$21,150) on a man who had been caught illegally transporting 49 pangolins in an ambulance with fake plates.

Traffic police in Phu Yen chased Le Van Tung, 26, after he ignored their signal to stop, and found no passengers other than the live pangolins, weighing a total of nearly 256 kilograms and worth more than VND511 million, in Dong Hoa District a month ago.

Tung, who hails from the north-central province of Thanh Hoa, was driving the animals from Ho Chi Minh City to Ha Tinh Province.

He was unable to produce the legal documents related to the pangolins nor could he produce the vehicle's registration paper.

Le Van Be, deputy head of Phu Yen Forest Management Department, said Nguyen Dinh Khang, director of the private hospital Thanh An Sai Gon in Nghe An Province's Vinh town, sold the ambulance, which had legal license plates, to Nguyen Huu Tien of Nghe An.

Be said Tien bought the vehicle for VND330 million in July, but he had yet to transfer its ownership.

Tien told police that he bought it for the purpose of transporting patients.

He rented it to Tung for VND10 million each month, and the latter deliberately used it to carry the pangolins.

Tung said a person he met in HCMC hired him to carry the pangolins to Ha Tinh, and told him someone would contact him and pay him a fee, but he was caught on the way in Phu Yen.

He replaced the genuine plates with fake ones before his journey, according to news reports.

An ambulance with fake license plate that Tung used to transport pangolins last month. Photo by Duc Huy

Be from Phu Yen forest management said his use of fake license plates would add weight to his penalty.

He said all the pangolins were sold to a legal wild animal farm in Dong Hoa.

Pangolins are protected under both the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Vietnamese law.

Under the law, anyone who illegally hunts, kills, breeds, or keeps endangered wild animals in captivity or transports or trades animals' body parts or products made from them could be fined up to 500 million.

Such offenses are also punishable by jail terms of up to seven years.

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