October 30, 2006

Toronto resident convicted of Internet trading in endangered species

TORONTO, ONT-Trading on the Internet in endangered species or in goods containing their parts has led to a 12-month conditional sentence for Toronto resident Mark Gleberzon. His sentence includes four months of house arrest and the obligation to perform 200 hours of community service. Gleberzon was convicted of unlawfully exporting endangered species from Canada to the United States, in contravention of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of the International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA). His conviction was based on a series of illegal transactions involving endangered species, carried out on a popular Internet-based auction site. He allegedly traded in goods containing parts from endangered species such as African elephant, Himalayan pheasant, birds of paradise, sperm whale, walrus and long-eared owls and was charged under WAPPRIITA. A two-year joint investigation by Canadian and U.S. wildlife officers investigation included the establishment of covert computer communications with Gleberzon and the subsequent purchase and delivery of numerous endangered animals to an undercover officer in the U.S. The investigation concluded in May 2005 when Gleberzon was arrested in New York City and a search warrant was executed at his Toronto residence. He was convicted of operating without permits under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). Such permits are required for the legal import or export of endangered species in or out of Canada. CITES is enforced through WAPPRIITA, with Environment Canada as the responsible agency. For the duration of his sentence, Gleberzon's activities, particularly on the Internet, will be carefully scrutinized. The judge also ordered forfeiture of numerous artifacts containing endangered species. Gleberzon faces numerous other charges in Canada under WAPPRIITA, as well as similar charges laid by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The illegal Internet trade in endangered species is a multi-million dollar a year international industry and is responsible for driving some of the world's most vulnerable creatures to the brink of extinction.

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