TEMPO.CO, Medan - The Ministry of Environment and Forestry, through the Law Enforcement (Gakkum) Center of Sumatra, had arrested two Chinese citizens for attempting to smuggle dozens of Pangolin scales to China on April 29.
Two suspects, whose initials are 'PF' (33) and 'XY' (28), were nabbed by the authorities when they were about to board AirAsia to Guangzhou, China via Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in Kuala Namu Airport, North Sumatra on April 20, 2019.
North Sumatra Police public information unit head Adj. Sr. Comr. Mangantar Pardamean (MP) Nainggolan ensured that the two smugglers are in the custody of the North Sumatra Police. “The North Sumatra Police special criminal unit investigate the case in coordination with the Forest Police,” Nainggolan told Tempo.
The smuggling attempt was exposed by airport officers when the two suspects did not pass through an x-ray security check. They hid scales of the endangered species in wallets, shirt pockets, pillow, bag, red envelopes, and socks.
“We instantly process an investigation and examination with the North Sumatra Police and the Consulate of the People's Republic of China,” said Haluanto Ginting, head of Sumatra Gakkum Center, when contacted on April 25.
Dozens of Pangolin scales that were about to be smuggled to China on April 29, 2019. Image credit: KLHK
The smuggling of pangolin scales violated the Indonesian law. According to Haluanto, the regulation stipulated illicit trade of skin, body, or other parts of protected animals or products made of protected animals will be charged with a maximum of five years imprisonment and a fine of Rp100 million.
This was not the first case. For the past five years, pangolin was one of the protected animals that were illegally exported from Indonesia.
Trade and Policy Program Manager of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Sofi Mardiah, said most illegal trade occurred in Medan (North Sumatra), Pekanbaru (Riau), Palembang (South Sumatra), and Surabaya (East Java) as those regions have international ports.
The WCS, through its Wildlife Crime Unit (WCU), monitored data of illegal trade wildlife since 2003, and those four regions involved syndicates from China, Malaysia, Hongkong, and Vietnam. “Rampant trade of pangolin is due to high international demand from China and Vietnam,” Sofi explained.
Pangolin from Indonesia is generally used for consumption and ingredient in traditional medicine. Based on the WCS study, the smuggling attempt of a total of 3,369 pangolins was successfully thwarted throughout 2015-2018. “Law enforcers have arrested around 43 suspects,” she added.
Those suspects were charged by Law No. 5 of 1990; which is the highest sanction is 54 months imprisonment and a fine of Rp100 million or a subsidy of two months in jail, and the lightest sanction of 3 months imprisonment and a fine of Rp5 million or a subsidy of two months in jail.
Other sanctions could be added based on Law No. 8 of 2010 concerning money laundering; 24 months behind bars and a fine of Rp800 million or a subsidy of 3 months in jail. “The lightest sanction will be 12 months in jail and a fine of Rp20 million and a subsidy of two months in jail,” Sofi added.
However, the existing regulation and law enforcement in the country were not adequate to tackle the problem. The fate of the protected animals, pangolins, in the country is still under threat.