Malaysian court jails notorious wildlife trader 6 months for smuggling 95 live boas in luggage

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian court sentenced a notorious wildlife trader to six months in prison Monday after he was caught smuggling 95 live boa constrictors in his luggage at the country's main airport.

Keng Liang "Anson" Wong, 52, was also fined 190,000 ringgit ($50,000) after pleading guilty at a district court to a charge of exporting the endangered snakes without a permit, said Faridz Gohim Abdullah, a prosecuting officer representing Malaysia's wildlife department.

Wong's bag broke open on a conveyer belt at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Aug. 26 while he was on his way to neighboring Indonesia. Authorities found boa constrictors, together with several other snakes and a turtle.

Wong, a Malaysian national, has already served jail time for wildlife trafficking in the United States. In 2001, a U.S. court sentenced him to almost six years in prison for running an animal-smuggling ring that prosecutors said imported and sold more than 300 protected reptiles native to Asia and Africa. Wong had been arrested in Mexico in 1998.

Activists had urged the court to impose the maximum penalty of seven years in jail for Wong, who moved back to Malaysia following his return from the U.S.

Faridz Gohim, the prosecuting officer, said he would discuss with other government authorities whether to appeal the court's ruling and seek a tougher sentence.