afrol News, Two men could face up to 20 years imprisonment for allegedly killing two leopards in South Africa in 2002 and smuggling their hides and a skull to United States, US State Department reported.
The leopards allegedly were hunted and killed in South Africa illegally and then smuggled into Zimbabwe to obtain false CITES permits.
Wayne D. Breitag and Jerry L. Mason from South Dakota were indicted for violating Lacey Act, a federal wildlife statute. Mason is charged with smuggling a hide and skull of a leopard while Breitag is charged with smuggling a hide.
According to the indictment, both Mr Breitag and Mason traveled to South Africa in August 2002 to hunt leopards while guided by a South African outfitter named Jan Groenewald Swart doing business as Trophy Hunting Safaris.
An indictment further said Mr Breitag and Mason shot and killed leopards despite being aware that what they were doing was illegal as they were not in possession of permits.
“Because the leopards were killed illegally, neither Mr Breitag nor Mason was able to legally obtain a valid CITES export permit from South Africa,” said indictment.
It further implicate Mr Swart for smuggling hides from South Africa into Zimbabwe, with fraudulent CITES export permits, then his accomplices were caught after submitting applications to US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) falsely claiming that they hunted and killed leopards in Zimbabwe.
USFWS said on 5 November 2004, it seized a shipment of five leopard hides and three leopard skulls at the Denver International Airport, which included the hide and skull of leopards that Mr Breitag and Mr Mason killed illegally in South Africa in 2002.
Smuggling is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine, the department said. Lacey Act violations are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
US District Court for Colorado on 21 May 2007 found Mr Swart guilty for illegal hunting and smuggling of leopards, and was slapped with eighteen-month prison sentence.
The investigation of this case was lead by Special Agents of United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The case is being prosecuted by Environmental Crimes Section of the United States Department of Justice and United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.
By staff writer
© afrol News
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