CITES welcomes Belgian court judgement on illegal trade in birds of prey

On 27 June 2014, a Belgian court found four defendants guilty of forging breeders declarations and CITES certificates for over 20 species of birds, mainly birds of prey.

The Criminal Court of First Instance of East Flanders also found the defendants guilty of participating in an international criminal organization operating across Europe. The organization illegally took eggs and chicks from the wild in France and Spain, hand-reared birds and then sold them on commercial markets with forged breeding and CITES documentation.

The species targeted by the defendants included CITES Appendix I-listed species Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) and Peregine (Falco peregrinus), and many Appendix II-listed species including Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Bonelli’s Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciata), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), Merlin (Falco columbarius), Hobby (Falco subbuteo), Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus), Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), Blackwinged Kite (Elanus caeruleus), Red Kite (Milvus milvus), Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca) and Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus).

The four defendants were given sentences ranging from one to four years, along with fines of up to 90,000.

The CITES Secretary-General, Mr. John E. Scanlon, welcomed the judgement, saying “This case shows that illegal trade in wildlife affects all regions, and provides further evidence of the organized and transnational nature of wildlife crime. The judgement sends a clear signal of the court’s recognition of the serious nature of these crimes. The CITES Secretariat welcomes the severity of the sentences imposed on the perpetrators”.

The judgement comes after a long and extensive judicial inquiry, involving international legal cooperation between Belgium and other European countries in which the criminal organization was operating, including the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

For more information see the Press Release issued by the Criminal Court of First Instance of East Flanders.