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Friday, 15 December, 2000, 09:43 GMT
Reptile smuggler admits 40 charges
Komodo dragon
Wong traded in Komodo Dragons
A Malaysian man has admitted running a smuggling ring shipping hundreds of rare and endangered animals into the United States from Asia.

Keng Liang "Anson" Wong pleaded guilty to around 40 counts of trafficking, conspiracy, money laundering and violations of US wildlife protection laws at a court hearing in San Francisco. He will be sentenced in March.

Komodo Dragon
World's largest lizard
Measures up to 3.1m
Weighs up to 126kg
Numbers estimated at 1,000 to 5,000
Found on Komodo, Rintja, Padar, and Flores islands
Nicknamed 'buaya darat' or land crocodile
Of some 300 animals said to have been smuggled into the US, 38 were regarded as endangered.

These included the Komodo Dragon, the world's largest living lizard, which is found on only a handful of Indonesian islands, and the Madagascan Spurred Tortoise, also known as the Ploughshare Tortoise.

The court heard that Wong traded in protected reptiles from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines worth nearly $500,000 between 1995 and 1998.

Extradition

The Mexican authorities arrested Wong in September 1998 after undercover agents posing as animal traffickers lured him to Mexico City.

He was handed over to US authorities in August after spending two years fighting extradition.

"Bringing Anson Wong to justice demonstrates the nation's resolve to combat profiteering in endangered species," said Lois Schiffer, assistant US attorney general for environment and natural resources.

"Let the message be clear. We will take whatever steps we can here and abroad to shut down the black market in reptiles and other protected animals."

US authorities say some animals were secretly transported in airline baggage and others sent in fraudulently labelled Federal Express shipments.

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