Alleged UAE animal smuggler flees Thailand

Immigration police say accused left Bangkok on flight to UAE while out on bail for smuggling case
The baby sun bear found in a suitcase at Bangkok Airport. (Freeland Foundation)
By Andy Sambidge
Tue 31 May 2011 09:46 PM

A man from the UAE who was arrested as he attempted to smuggle suitcases filled of endangered baby animals out of Thailand has escaped from the country, it was reported on Tuesday.

Noor Mahmood was detained on May 13 by undercover officers at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport with the animals which included four leopard cubs, a Malayan sun bear, a baby marmoset and a baby red-cheeked gibbon, according to wildlife campaign group Freeland Foundation.

Mahmood was charged with smuggling endangered species out of the kingdom and released on a 200,000 baht ($6,600) bail, but he left Bangkok on a May 23 flight to the UAE, immigration police told news agency AFP.

Freeland called for Thai and UAE collaboration to continue with the case.

"Thai police did a great undercover operation to nab Mr Mahmood just as he was about to board his first class flight to Dubai," the group's director Steven Galster told AFP. "But since he was caught red handed and charged, we want to know why he is not being prosecuted?"

The case prompted animal welfare charities to urge the UAE to do more to clamp down on the illegal smuggling of endangered and exotic animals into the country.

“Not enough is being done to prevent this trade,” Galster told Arabian Business.

Ashley Fruno, a senior campaigner of PETA for Asia-Pacific, said tougher deterrents were needed to outweigh the easy money available to contraband traders.

Thailand is a hub for illegal wildlife trafficking, but authorities finding so many live mammals is unusual. Typical hauls are of rare tortoises, snakes and lizards.

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