Undercover investigations expose smuggling ring for pangolins

Relatively little is known about the elusive pangolin, as their shy and nocturnal nature makes it difficult for researchers to study them. PHOTO: Elroi Yee / R.AGE

The Star Online, 26 Sep 2019 | A global investigative report has alleged that as many as a dozen Malaysian policemen are playing a key part in the international smuggling trade for pangolins, the endangered species widely considered the world’s most trafficked mammal.

Those allegedly involved range from traffic policemen to high-level officers in the Malaysian Border Security Agency (Aksem), and are mostly based in Kedah, where the Bukit Kayu Hitam border checkpoint sits on the border between Malaysia and Thailand.

Pangolins are nocturnal anteaters whose scales are highly sought after for use in traditional Chinese medicine, while its meat is consumed as a status-symbol delicacy.

The Global Environmental Reporting Collective’s (GERC) investigations, spanning 13 countries with R.AGE as its Malaysian reporting partner, not only uncovered the bribing of border officers but of instances where the rogue enforcement officers actually assisted in smuggling of wildlife and other goods.

One policeman confessed to being an operative in a smuggling syndicate. He claimed other colleagues – including his supervisors – are aware of the illegal trade. “We have to ask our supervisors first (when they are offered money by the smuggling syndicates). If they are okay, we ask our teammates. Some might agree, some might not. If our team is not okay, the smugglers will try asking other teams, since we change according to our shifts.”

This suggestion of corruption is corroborated by undercover interviews with a smuggler, who claimed the syndicate has taken care of everyone from the Anti Smuggling Unit all the way to the top. The smuggler, who operates in Kedah, also alleged the involvement of policemen who carried out the smuggling of a variety of contraband, including pangolins and fireworks …

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Corruption at the border

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