Prosecution calls for up to 18 months’ jail for woman linked to unlawful import of elephant tusks
The prosecution has called for between 12 and 18 months’ jail for a woman who was a director of a trading company that imported a 40-foot container containing more than 1,000 elephant tusks from Nigeria.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Zu Zhao had noted that the offender, Dao Thi Boi, 40, did not reap significant financial benefits from the offence.
However, he stressed that her case involved an unprecedented haul of elephant tusks.
For committing the offence under the Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act, an offender can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $500,000.
Defence lawyer Wee Pan Lee pleaded for his Vietnamese client to be given a fine that was less than half the maximum amount.
He told District Judge Ong Chin Rhu that his client was not a smuggler but a freight forwarder, adding: “(She) had no control on what was stuffed into the container in Nigeria.”
Boi, who is also a Singapore permanent resident, was offered bail of $8,000 on Tuesday after the judge granted her permission to leave Singapore for Vietnam between Nov 30 and Feb 14, 2023.
She is expected to be sentenced on Feb 15, 2023.
At the time of the offence, Boi was the owner and director of VNSG Trading as well as Song Hong Trading & Logistics.
On March 3, 2018, an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer on duty at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station scanned the container, whose permit declared it contained 203 packages of groundnuts.
The ICA officer instead found images akin to animal horns inside, and the container was detained for investigation.
Sixty-one bags containing 1,787 suspected elephant tusks, weighing 3,480 kg in total, were found.
DPP Lee had earlier said in his submissions that Boi not only turned a blind eye, but actively and knowingly assisted in the dishonest business practices by her client – a man named Su Thien.
According to court documents, Boi handled about seven consignments from Nigeria to Singapore on behalf of Su Thien through her companies between 2017 and March 5, 2018.
As the sole person operating Song Hong Trading & Logistics, Boi had to be fully aware that the company had imported the container containing the elephant tusks, said DPP Lee.
He added: “Just because Song Hong was not involved in the initial stuffing of the container where the elephant tusks were found... or did not participate in the shipping out of the elephant tusks from Nigeria, does not mean that Song Hong did not cause the elephant tusks to be imported into Singapore.
“In fact, the evidence shows that Song Hong played an essential role, and that the elephant tusks could not have been imported into Singapore without Song Hong’s involvement.”
The defence had argued that while Boi’s companies were the named consignees, Su Thien should ultimately be responsible for the contents of the shipments.
The defence also said that her responsibility extended only to carrying out Su Thien’s instructions, and given her constraints as a one-person operation, she should not be expected to do more.