Corrupt Cambodian Officials Among Those Indicted For Smuggling Endangered Long-Tailed Macaques Into The U.S. For Experiments
Members of an international primate smuggling ring have been charged with multiple felonies for participating in bringing wild long-tailed macaques that were falsely labelled as “captive bred” into the United States.
Two Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries officials are among the eight that were charged with smuggling and conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act; Omaliss Keo, Director General of the Cambodian Forestry Administration and Masphal Kry, Deputy Director of the Department of Wildlife and Biodiversity for the Cambodian Forestry Administration. Kry was arrested in New York on Wednesday. He was reportedly en route to attend a conference on protecting endangered species in Panama.
James Man Sang Lau of Hong Kong, the founder and owner of Vanny Resources Holdings, Ltd., and Vanny Bio Research Corporation Ltd. in Cambodia, was also indicted along Dickson Lau, the company’s general manager. Sunny Cha, Raphael Cheung Man, Sarah Yeung, and Hing Ip Chung, all employees of Vanny, were also cited for the crimes.
The employees were allegedly involved with breeding long-tailed macaques for scientific and academic research and supplying them to labs in Florida and Texas. The group is also accused of illegally purchasing wild macaques for the business when they lacked supply from their breeding operations.
“The macaque is already recognized as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature,” Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in a statement. “The practice of illegally taking them from their habitat to end up in a lab is something we need to stop. Greed should never come before responsible conservation. Cases like this put us in a position where we can make a difference.”
The indictment further alleged that James Lau and Dickson Lau, who were operating from Hong Kong, also conspired with black market collectors and corrupt officials in Cambodia to acquire wild-caught macaques and launder them through the Cambodian entities for export to the U.S. and elsewhere.
In order to make up for a shortage of suitable monkeys at the putative breeding facilities in Cambodia, the co-conspirators enlisted the assistance of the CITES authority in Cambodia and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) to deliver wild-caught macaques taken from national parks and protected areas in Cambodia. These macaques were taken to breeding facilities and provided false CITES export permits. A collection quota of 3,000 “unofficial” monkeys was allowed for which MAFF officials received cash payments. Wild long-tailed macaques also were reportedly delivered by defendant Kry and other employees of MAFF to a facility in Pursat, Cambodia.
Between December 2017 and September 2022, Kry is alleged to have taken part in conversations regarding the pricing for wild macaques to be captured and delivered to monkey breeding facilities operated by the co-conspirators. Kry, who participated personally in delivering these “unofficial” macaques to the facilities, including Vanny Bio Research Corporation Ltd., also was provided payments for the illegal monkeys from the co-conspirators.
“Wild populations of long-tailed macaques, as well as the health and well-being of the American public, are put at risk when these animals are removed from their natural habitat and illegally sold in the United States and elsewhere,” stated Edward Grace, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director, Office of Law Enforcement.
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