Tortoise smugglers not our staff, says MAS

PETALING JAYA: The three people caught smuggling tortoises in Bangladesh on Friday are not Malaysia Airlines (MAS) staff, the airline said.

In a telephone interview yesterday, a MAS spokesman denied that the suspects were Malaysians, adding that the matter was being investigated.

He did not say who the people were.

The spokesman said MAS has zero tolerance for staff, contractors or service providers who are guilty of crimes or illegal activities.

The airline would not hesitate to take necessary disciplinary action again­st errant employees, he added.

It was learnt that the three suspects were "service providers" for ground handling at the airport.

The spokesman was responding to reports that the men were detained for smuggling 30 tortoises that were seized at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka on Friday.

Bangladeshi news reports claimed that the three men were supposedly working for MAS.

Local daily Prothom Alo reported that 30 tortoises worth about RM1.05mil (S$340,000) were found inside three trolley bags with MAS tags around 6pm that day.

It said the three men were fined one lakh each (RM5,150), with two of them also sentenced to one year's jail.

They were said to have been helped by a Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority officer who escaped capture.

A Dhaka Tribune report said that three passengers were also interrogated, as the animals were hidden inside their bags.

The police later found that none of them were aware that the tortoises were inside their bags.

The report did not say which airline or flight the three passengers were supposed to be on.

All the animals were later released at the Bangabandhu Safari Park.

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