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UPDATE: Animal trader sentenced for illegal trading in nearly extinct baby eels

|News, Fraud and economic crime

An animal trader was sentenced today (6 March) at Southwark Crown Court of illegally smuggling critically endangered baby European eels.

Gilbert Khoo, 66, was shown to have engaged in illegal trading out of the UK of European eels between 2015 and 2017.

He failed to inform the relevant authorities of his profit-making illegal exporting activities.

European eels are on the verge of extinction. In response the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species - of which the UK is a member - passed rules that there can be no legal trade in or out of this country.

Khoo was transporting the eels between London and Hong Kong - where they hold a high commercial price - in consignments marked ‘Chilled Fresh Fish’.

Live eels in boxes and the export containers
Live eels in boxes and the export containers

This was discovered by the Border Force in February 2017.

Marion Longford, of the CPS Specialist Fraud Division, said: “Khoo was trading these animals purely for a financial gain. He had no regard for the controls in place for trading endangered European eels which are vital to safeguard animals increasingly at risk of being wiped out completely.

"We would like to thank Border Force and the National Crime Agency for their investigative work.

“We take crime against protected animals incredibly seriously and take every step we can to secure convictions in these cases.

"The impact that these crimes have on our environment and our communities cannot be understated, why is why we’re committed to building cases against offenders and ensuring they’re held to account for their actions.”

Khoo was sentenced on 6 March.

Building the case

The CPS was able to use the evidence to prove that Khoo was behind the attempt to export the baby eels from the UK to Hong Kong.

Khoo was keeping live eels imported from the European Union in a barn in Gloucestershire. He would then arrange for them to be repackaged and exported to Asia, hidden underneath chilled fish.

Inside his telephones and computers were emails concerned with supplying European eels from the UK to Malaysia. The CPS also proved a financial link to the eel farm through invoices from Khoo to the managers of the barn.

The most serious offending is the export offences. They spanned a two-year period and involved 16 consignments involving the illegal export of more than 5 million elvers, with an estimated value of more than £5.3m and an eventual retail value in the Far East of more than £53m.

Notes to editors

  • Marion Longford is Unit Head of CPS Specialist Fraud Division
  • Gilbert Khoo (DOB: 23/02/1953) was convicted of six counts at Southwark Crown Court and sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and to do 240 hours unpaid work.

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