Washington Times (USA)
When Thailand arrested suspected animal trafficking kingpin Boonchai Bach last year, it was hailed by animal rights groups as a watershed day and a chance to unravel Hydra, the vast Vietnamese trafficking ring he was believed to be part of.
One animal welfare group compared Mr. Boonchai’s capture to “catching one of the Corleones.”
And, just like the Godfather, Mr. Boonchai walked out of a Thai courtroom this year as a free man, after the prosecution’s key witness changed his testimony on the stand. Some have speculated he was threatened or bribed.
Whatever the cause, Mr. Boonchai is the latest to escape animal trafficking charges — and a loud cry for more serious international efforts to bring down the $23 billion illicit trade in animals.
If animal welfare or environmental concerns aren’t good enough reasons, those calling for action say, there are plenty of others.
The profits available, the low risk of capture or prosecution, the relatively weak penalties and the overlapping networks have turned the animal trade into a serious source of revenue for cartels that also engage in smuggling people, drugs or weapons. Even terrorist organizations have become attracted to the market’s lucrative rewards and low risk of serious penalties.