As part of an ongoing investigation into attempted smuggling of protected birds’ skins reported in July, on 4th and 5th August 2014, officers from the Specialist Enforcement Branch of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit and from the Administrative Law Enforcement Unit of the Police carried a joint inspection at the residence of the person from Mġarr (Malta) who had been apprehended at MIA whilst trying to smuggle in 411 dead birds originating from Argentina on 23rd July. This joint inspection resulted in the largest ever haul of stuffed protected birds seized from a private residence.

The inspection revealed a stuffed bird collection comprising about 575 bird specimens hailing from various countries. A total of 236 specimens were subsequently seized as they were found to be of species whose possession is illegal and whose importation is restricted. Some of the specimens are also protected by international law, under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The suspect had already been subjected to a similar inspection in 2004, during which over 300 birds were examined. This inspection had resulted in the seizure of 8 protected birds. The person was subsequently charged in Court and found guilty of illegal possession. The Courts had ordered the confiscation of the birds and fined the accused €230.

Legal action regarding the attempted smuggling of dead protected birds at MIA and the possession of stuffed protected birds will be instituted as soon as investigations are completed. If found guilty, the suspect may face increased penalties under recently revised legislation. The penalties may include a fine of up to €10,000, imprisonment of up to two years, permanent revocation of licenses issued under the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations, and confiscation of corpus delicti.

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