Page last updated at 09:18 GMT, Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Czech collector skips India bail

By Amitabha Bhattasali
BBC News, Calcutta

Peter Svacha (left) and Emil Kuchera
The two men were arrested in June (Photo by Mrinal Rana)

A Czech man who was sentenced to three years imprisonment by an Indian court for collecting rare insects has fled the country after jumping bail.

Emil Kuchera confirmed through an e-mail to acquaintances in India that he has "safely" reached his home country.

Mr Kuchera and his colleague, renowned entomologist Peter Svacha, were arrested near Singalila National Park, some 100km from the town of Darjeeling.

They had been collecting rare beetles and moths without permission.

The court found that Mr Svacha was a "victim of circumstance" and spared him a jail sentence, but Mr Kuchera was sentenced to three years in prison.

He had appealed to a higher court over his conviction and a hearing was scheduled to have been heard next week.

Mr Kuchera's lawyer, Taranga Pandit, told the BBC that when he enquired about him a couple of days back, he was surprised to know that he had left the north-eastern town of Darjeeling on the night of 22 October. He had left his belongings at the hotel.

"The court granted him conditional bail and he was not supposed to leave Darjeeling till the proceedings are over. This is a serious breach of the Indian law and I am going to appeal to the court that an arrest warrant be issued against my client," Mr Pandit said.

The Indian foreign ministry should treat this case seriously and follow it up with the Czech Embassy, he added.

Police say that Mr Kuchera might have used India's open border with Nepal to go to Kathmandu and then fly to the to Czech Republic. Mr Kuchera had three passports with three different names - two of which were seized by the court.

Police and forest sources both say that Mr Kuchera visited Darjeeling at least five times and ran websites in which rare insects were offered for sale.

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