US Court Clears Cambodian Official of Monkey Smuggling Charge

Long-tailed macaques sit in a cage in January at the Vanny Bio-Research monkey breeding farm in Pursat province. Photo: Cruelty Free International

PHNOM PENH – A US court has acquitted Cambodian official Kry Masphal of wrongdoing in connection to smuggling protected monkeys.

Masphal, director of Forestry Administration’s Department of Wildlife and Biodiversity, was arrested at New York’s Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 16 2022 while on his way to a conference in Panama on the illicit trade in endangered species.

He was allegedly involved in a scheme to export to the US wild-caught macaque monkeys laundered through a Cambodian breeding center as captive-bred.

He had been freed on bail after Cambodia announced it would cooperate with US authorities. The Cambodian government asserted Masphal’s innocence.  

His trial started on Mar. 11 after a five-year US investigation into an alleged ring that abducted long-tailed macaques from forests and falsely identified them as captive-bred before they were sold.

A jury in Florida cleared him on Mar. 22. 

Animal right organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was first to report the acquittal. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokesperson Im Rachna, confirmed the news.

PETA said, “Regardless of the verdict, the evidence showed that countless monkeys were abducted from their forest homes and laundered with dirty paperwork and that representatives from two American importers — Worldwide Primates and Orient BioResource Center (now Inotiv) — signed off on the paperwork for black market monkeys.” 

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