Illustrative photo (Photo: VNA)

 Hanoi (VNA) – The People’s Court of Ha Dong district in Hanoi on March 20 handed down a jail sentence of 13 months on Nguyen Mau Chien for smuggling 36kg of rhino horn, according to the Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV).

Chien was suspected to be the mastermind of a ring trafficking rhino horns, elephant tusks and products of wild animals from Africa to Vietnam.

Bui Thi Ha, Director of Policy and Legislative Campaigns at ENV, acknowledged Vietnam’s breakthrough efforts in the fight against wildlife trafficking when Chien was brought to trial.

However, she said, the 13-month imprisonment is not strict enough to reflect the seriousness of the case.

The centre has expected a higher prison term to be issued for the defendant which will be a deterrent to wildlife traffickers, she said. 

The 2017 Penal Code, which came into force since January 1, 2018, increases maximum jail sentences for wildlife crime from seven years to 15 years.

The ENV on January 22 revealed that 16 international and social organisations in wildlife protection in Vietnam signed a letter calling on Vietnamese law enforcement agencies to strictly handle Chien.

Earlier at Chien’s trial on November 27, 2017, the judging council asked for supplementary investigation to clarify the origin of some seized exhibits and conflicts in defendants’ statements.

Chien, who was arrested in April, 2017, was allegedly the head of a wild animal trafficking ring from Africa to Vietnam. In 2007, he was arrested and punished in Tanzania for illegally transporting wild animals.

In the last five years, his ring is believed to have expanded its operations in Africa, focusing on rhino horn, elephant tusks and pangolin scales trading.

In September 2017, in a visit to Vietnam, a delegation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)’s Secretariat and Vietnamese authorities reviewed the ratio of arresting and prosecuting of wildlife crimes. CITES recommended that Vietnam strengthen efforts in trying and apply stricter punishments for the crimes.-VNA