Taking Down Vietnam’s Marine Turtle Kingpin

On the 19th of November 2014, Vietnam’s National Environmental Police raided three warehouses in the city of Nha Trang and discovered more than 4.3 tons of dead marine turtles. A month later local police raided three additional locations connected to the same criminal network and found 4,000 more marine turtles. The combined volume of turtles seized in both raids was more than an estimated 10 tons making this the single largest seizure of marine turtles in the world history.

The raids came as a result of a three-year investigation by ENV which identified Hoang Manh Cuong as the “kingpin” standing behind the network. The kingpin was covered by his brother who stepped up after the raids and accepted the responsibility. However, the story is not over. What remains to be seen is whether the justice system in Vietnam will deliver appropriate punishment to Cuong for his serious crimes which have both national and international implications. This is an important opportunity for Vietnam to show that it can meet its global obligation to eradicate wildlife crime and the criminal organizations that engage in such activities.

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