Jeweller faces massive fine under CITES laws

| 30/10/2011

(St.Thomas Source): A manufacturer of high-end jewellery, art, and sculpture has been sentenced in the US to penalties of more than $4million for knowingly trading in falsely-labelled, protected black coral.  The firm violated the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act, which make it a felony to falsely label wildlife intended for international commerce. The Endangered Species Act is the US domestic law that implements the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  On July 15, GEM Manufacturing LLC, headquartered in St. Thomas, pleaded guilty to seven counts of violations of both the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act.

The St. Thomas company was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $1.8 million, which will be apportioned between the Lacey Act Reward Fund and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Asset Forfeiture Fund.

GEM was sentenced to pay an additional $500,000 in community service payments for projects to study and protect black coral, and ordered to forfeit dozens of jewellery items, 10 artistic sculptures and nearly 7 tons of raw black coral. The total value of the forfeited goods exceeds $2.17 million, according to the Justice Department, bringing the aggregate financial penalty to $4.47 million.

That makes it the largest penalty for the illegal trade in coral, the largest non-seafood wildlife trafficking financial penalty and the fourth largest for any U.S. case involving the illegal trade of wildlife, according to the release from the Justice Department.

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  1. Foxtrot Oscar says:

    Still a disgrace that we sell black coral in Cayman.  But then we opened dolphin prisons after other islands closed them down and we eat turtles.  The dollar always seems to win in Cayman.

  2. B.B.L. Brown says:

    Interesting story.  I wonder if they had records of where they bought that 7 tons.