DRI reels in star catch at airport

DNA India
Thursday, March 22, 2007  22:01 IST

By Renni Abraham

Over 1200 exotic ?baby star tortoises? were seized by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Thursday morning from the checked-in luggage of two Malaysia-bound passengers Mubarak K, 42, and Mustafa Kamal, 22.

The tortoises are sold in pet markets in South East Asia, the US for exorbitant rates ? adult tortoises are being sold for $1000.

Considering the size of the baby tortoises, DRI official believe the worth of each of these would be $500 making the consignment worth nearly Rs3 crore in international market.

A DRI spokesperson said, ?The two passengers were booked on a Sri Lankan Airline flight (UL - 144) headed for Malaysia via Colombo. The tortoises were bundled inside bags that were packed in the luggage. ?Provisions under the Customs Act, 1971, will allow a prison term for up to three years and hefty fines and penalties for the offence. We believe the two passengers were merely acting as carriers of the consignment and are probing to find out the real smugglers behind the racket.?

The tortoises are believed to have been procured from the eastern and southern coastal belts of India, especially, Tamil Nadu. The tortoise babies can survive without food for up to 10 to 15 days allowing smugglers to plan for a long voyage with them hidden deep inside the luggage.
The two accused will be produced before the court on Friday.

http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1086534

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