A haul of 75 hard corals and five soft corals that were illegally smuggled into Singapore from the Philippines have been seized by the city state’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).
The marine creatures were falsely declared by the importer as “plastic aquarium ornaments”, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a joint statement with AVA today (Monday, April 3). They were hidden in plastic bags lined with paper and concealed in ceramic mugs.
Singapore is a signatory of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), under which hard corals are a protected species.
Special permits are required for any import, export and re-export of protected species, including their parts and products.
While soft corals are not protected by CITES, the authorities said they were also seized as they had been falsely declared and were bundled together with the illegal shipment of hard corals.
AVA and ICA said they acted on a tip-off and worked with a logistics company to follow up on the consignment from the Philippines. It led them to the importer’s premises where the corals were seized.
The corals are now under the care of Resorts World Sentosa, while the importer is assisting AVA with investigations.
The alleged smugglers could now face a fine of up to $350,000 (US) or up to two years jail.
The authorities also reminded travellers against bringing live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit.