Six smugglers sentenced in 2021 case involving euthanasia of 154 cats

Six individuals have received jail terms of between eight and 20 months from the Kaohsiung District Court after being found guilty of attempting to smuggle 154 cats from China that were subsequently euthanized in 2021.

According to the verdict, the masterminds behind the case - seafood wholesaler Cheng Chang-chia (???), and former Coast Guard officer Chang Fang-yi (???) and his accomplice Kuo Min-hao (???) - were all handed sentences ranging from 14 to 20 months of fixed-term imprisonment for violating Taiwan's Smuggling Penalty Act.

Lin Cheng-lung (???), a Kaohsiung pet breeding farm owner whose involvement surprised authorities due to his farm being a certified business, was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment which could be commuted to a four-year suspended sentence.

Lin was given a lighter sentence for cooperating with authorities throughout the case, but will also have to pay a fine of NT$300,000 (US$9831) alongside 180 hours of labor service.

The chief engineer of the boat used in the crime, identified only by his surname Kao (?), was sentenced to eight months imprisonment, while the captain, identified only by his surname Lin (?), was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment.

As these two individuals were not significantly involved in the case, their sentences could also be commuted to two years of suspended sentence.

The case was reported on Aug. 21, 2021, two days after 154 cats from China were found on board a fishing boat off the coast of Anping District, Tainan, when boarded by the Coast Guard.

Several breeds including Russian Blue, Ragdoll, Persian American Shorthair, and British Shorthair, were discovered in 62 cages. They were euthanized two days later over fears of carrying rabies, which is endemic in China.

The fishing boat skipper told prosecutors following his arrest that he was hired by Chang to smuggle the cats for NT$3,000 a day, and was asked to meet with a Chinese vessel in international waters off the coast of Huayu in offshore Penghu County, to pick up the cats and bring them to Taiwan proper.

The captain's statement led to the later detention of Chang and Kuo at a private residence in Kaohsiung's Fengshan District.

Further questioning revealed that Cheng served as the financial backer of the smuggling operation and rented the captain's ship for NT$150,000 a month.

Owing to his familiarity with the waters, Chang was in charge of designating the smuggling route, while Kuo was responsible for retrofitting the smuggling vessel such as constructing a secret compartment with air conditioning to hide the felines.

The captain had revealed that with his expertise as a former Coast Guardsman, Chang showed the skipper how to handle inspections.

The Kaohsiung District Court indictment stated that all six individuals involved may appeal their sentences.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel