Gorilla case was frame-up ––McGreal

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1994:

MIAMI, Florida––Victor Bernal, 57,
director of zoos and parks for Mexico state,
Mexico, was convicted on May 18 of trying to
bootleg a gorilla from Florida who was actually a
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent in disguise.
Bernal paid $97,500 for the “gorilla,” in one of
two stings set up by convicted primate trafficker
Matthew Block of Worldwide Primates as part of
an attempted plea bargain. The other sting
nabbed alleged bird’s egg smuggler Clement
Bernal is to be sentenced on July 18. In
the most recent similar case, a Texas exotic bird
dealer who was convicted of smuggling parrots
was on April 28 fined $10,000 and sentenced to
five years in prison.

Block is currently appealing a 13-
month sentence issued for his part in the 1990
“Bangkok Six” orangutan-smuggling case, and
was recently fined $16,000 for multiple Animal
Welfare Act violations, also dating to 1990. A
major laboratory primate supplier, whose cus-
tomers include most of the laboratories whose
work on primates has become controversial,
Block may escape jail time entirely, according to
International Primate Protection League presi-
dent Shirley McGreal, who exposed the
Bangkok Six case, because key documents have
McGreal has asked the American Civil
Liberties Union to investigate the entrapment
aspects of both of the Block-arranged stings,
pointing out that neither Bernal nor the other
arrestees had previous criminal records. Further,
she said, “No animals were shipped, and no ani-
mals suffered or died, as happened in the
Bangkok Six case.” The defendants were never
offered the chance to plea-bargain, as Block
was; they spent 10 days in jail while trying to
arrange bond, while Block has never been jailed;
and one defendant, Maria Villada, lost a baby
she had tried to conceive for seven years when
she miscarried at her arraignment.
Ironically, former Belgrade Zoo volun-
teer Milka Knezevic-Ivaskovic, who helped
expose the Bangkok Six case by revealing how
her boss, Vukosav Bojovic, helped set it up,
may become the only person to serve time in con-
nection with it. A Serbian court on January 26
upheld her three-month jail sentence and fine for
purportedly libeling Bojovic–––who is under
indictment in the U.S. as result of the same evi-
dence. Knezevic-Ivaskovic has appealed again.
In recent Animal Welfare Act cases,
Michael G. Melbye and Wayne and Dorothy
Louise Smith, of Lebanon, Oregon, were fined
$5,000, $5,000, and $10,000, respectively, for
selling animals without a license, and were barred
from getting a license for 10 years. Rare Feline
Breeding Inc. and proprietor Robert A. Baudy,
of Center Hill, Florida, were jointly fined $5,000
for multiple care and sanitation violations, involv-
ing both exotic cats and monkeys.
New charges of animal dealing without
requisite permits have been filed against J a m e s
Joseph Hickey Jr., of Albany, Washington,
already convicted multiple times of related offens-
es, and Jerry R. Branton, of Carson,
Washington. The new charges pertain to 46 ran-
dom-source dogs and cats whom Hickey bought
from Branton between October 1989 and June
1990. Hickey said the charges were timed to make
him look bad just as he pursued a libel suit against
a former neighbor whose testimony helped bring
the previous convictions.
Cracking down to avoid U.S. trade
sanctions announced in early April, Taiwan raid-
ed 5,623 of the estimated 9,000 traditional Chinese
medicine shops on the island between April 19 and
April 30, arresting 37 people for allegedly selling
about 12 ounces of rhino horn and 10 pounds of
tiger bone. U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit
on April 21 showed reporters similar amounts of
the same substances that he said were found in
U.S. stores––now under investigation.
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