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Truck driver fined S$5,000 for smuggling 2 sick pythons into Singapore through Tuas Checkpoint

SINGAPORE — A truck driver, who smuggled two protected snakes into Singapore by hiding them in a styrofoam box in his vehicle, was fined S$5,000 on Wednesday (June 1) for his actions.

One of the pythons seized from Pulenthiran Palaniappan's container truck

One of the pythons seized from Pulenthiran Palaniappan's container truck

SINGAPORE — A truck driver, who smuggled two protected snakes into Singapore by hiding them in a styrofoam box in his vehicle, was fined S$5,000 on Wednesday (June 1) for his actions earlier this year.

The pair of pythons, which Pulenthiran Palaniappan tried to smuggle in, had to be humanely euthanised because they were suffering from severe and chronic health conditions.

Pulenthiran, 51, who is Malaysian, pleaded guilty to importing a scheduled species without a valid permit on April 7. The offence falls under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act.

Two other charges under the Animals and Birds Act were taken into consideration for sentencing. These were for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that the pythons were not conveyed in a manner that subjected them to unnecessary suffering.

They had injuries associated with poor handling and environmental conditions, which led to spinal deviation and mouth inflammation, among others.

A National Parks Board (NParks) veterinarian found that the way the snakes were transported would have caused pain and discomfort due to the diseases they were suffering.

Pulenthiran agreed to help a Malaysian, only known as “Kumar”, to deliver the snakes to an unknown recipient in Singapore for 300 Malaysian ringgit (S$94). 

Kumar told Pulenthiran to contact him immediately once he had passed through the immigration checkpoint. Kumar would then separately tell the recipient to collect the snakes from Pulenthiran.

Pulenthiran collected the styrofoam box containing the snakes from Kumar that day as he intended to enter Singapore to deliver cement to a construction company.

At about 11.35pm, two officers from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority inspected the truck and found the box concealed in the overhead compartment above the driver’s seat.

The snakes, which are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), were hidden in two separate cloth bundles in the box.

Cites regulates the international trade of wild animals and plants to ensure that it does not threaten their survival. Singapore became a signatory to the convention in 1986.

Pulenthiran did not check on the snakes’ health conditions before transporting them from Malaysia to Singapore, the court heard.

They measured between 3.8m and 4.8m in length and weighed between 17kg and 26kg.

NParks prosecutor Ron Goh sought a fine of S$5,000, while Pulenthiran’s lawyer SS Dhillon asked for a smaller fine of S$3,500.

Mr Dhillon told the court that his client never received the money as payment, which Kumar had promised upon delivery of the snakes.

The lawyer also said that Pulenthiran often obliged his relatives’ and friends’ requests to carry items such as food and clothing from Malaysia to Singapore, and vice versa.

Mr Dhillon added that Pulenthiran has been a truck driver for the past 10 years and maintained a clean record.

With the Singapore dollar at a record high against the ringgit, a high fine would affect him tremendously, the defence counsel added.

Pulenthiran could have been jailed for up to two years or fined up to S$50,000 for each smuggled species, or punished with both.

Related topics

court crime smuggling pythons snake endangered species

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