Tor­toise man fined $7000

Joondalup Times - - NEWS - Justin Bian­chini

A JOONDALUP mag­is­trate has fined a Gir­rawheen man $7000 over the il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of three Mada­gas­can ra­di­ated tor­toises stolen from Perth Zoo.

Mag­is­trate Elaine Cam­pi­one said she would have handed Mai Huy Vu Vo (29) a jail term had he, in fact, stolen the mi­crochipped tor­toises be­cause of their crit­i­cally en­dan­gered sta­tus – there are just 400 left in the world.

Ms Cam­pi­one said she ac­cepted Vo had taken good care of the two he claimed he had bought about 2011 – he bought the other in 2016 and handed it to po­lice af­ter see­ing a news re­port about a tor­toise taken from the zoo a week ear­lier – “but that doesn’t mat­ter”.

The mag­is­trate said she won­dered about “breed­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for­gone” and the cost to the sci­en­tific world “de­prived of th­ese tor­toises for a con­sid­er­able pe­riod of time”.

“This is a very se­ri­ous brain snap on your part,” she said.

Ms Cam­pi­one said she would im­pose a mean­ing­ful fine as a gen­eral de­ter­rent.

She took into ac­count his early guilty plea, lim­ited in­come – the court heard he re­ceived a be­low-av­er­age in­come from the Viet­namese restau­rant he ran with his wife – and his good char­ac­ter.

She had read three ref­er­ences in­clud­ing those from his wife and parish priest.

“I ac­cept you are usu­ally a good per­son… and the ref­er­ences handed up to me speak very highly of you,” Ms Cam­pi­one said.

“So you’re a hard-work­ing man who or­di­nar­ily minds his own busi­ness and doesn’t come to the at­ten­tion of the courts or au­thor­i­ties.”

Vo, who came to Aus­tralia in 2006, was rep­re­sented by lawyer Mark Gun­ning and had an in­ter­preter as­sist him.

Mr Gun­ning said when Vo handed the tor­toise to po­lice in Fe­bru­ary 2016, his lim­ited English and ed­u­ca­tion meant he hadn’t re­alised it was an en­dan­gered species.

The other two, the court heard, had been stolen from the zoo on June 8, 2011.

The po­lice prose­cu­tor said Vo told of­fi­cers he had bought them from a friend of a drug dealer about 2011.

Po­lice went to his house in Septem­ber af­ter a re­port of a break-in or dam­age and no­ticed the tor­toises.

The prose­cu­tor said af­ter Vo re­turned the tor­toise in 2016, he must have known about the oth­ers.

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