Vietnam gang convicted of stealing ostriches, porcupines

Vietnam gang convicted of stealing ostriches, porcupines Hanoi - A court in Vietnam Friday convicted 29 people of stealing dozens of ostriches, porcupines, pythons and other animals from enclosures at animal centres and selling their meat to restaurants.

"They confessed and repented for their crimes, so the court gave them reduced sentences," said Le Thi Huong, chairwoman of the People's Court of the southern province of Dong Nai.

The leader of the group, Huynh Van Khau, was sentenced to five years in prison, while 28 other defendants got one and two years in prison.

According to the indictment, Khau and his accomplices stole captive wild animals from authorized wild animal centres on over 30 occasions. The centres, located in Ho Chi Minh City and neighboring provinces, were licensed to raise animals for research.

Khau's group was convicted of stealing 10 crocodiles, 43 pythons, 25 porcupines, 17 ostriches, three bears and several other animals.

They then sold the animals to restaurants, netting nearly 0.5 billion dong (28,000 dollars).

A military court already sentenced Khau to 9-and-a-half years in prison in 2007 for stealing and killing a tiger from the Centre for Medicine Research and Production of Military Zone Number 9.

The Vietnamese national health care system, including its military hospitals, often employs traditional Chinese-style medicine. Traditional remedies sometimes include animal products.

In that case Khau and his accomplices doused a piece of beef with chloroform to anesthetize the tiger. They then killed the animal and sold it for 250 million dong (14,000 dollars).

Prosecutions for violations of laws protecting wild animals have been increasingly frequent in Vietnam in recent months.

Several poachers have been prosecuted since February for killing langurs in the central province of Khanh Hoa. (dpa)