Six people arrested at Brussels Airport for smuggling endangered species

Six people arrested at Brussels Airport for smuggling endangered species
The endangered animals are referred to as “glass eels” due to their transparent appearance. Credit: WWF

Six people were arrested at Brussels Airport in Zaventem on Friday for smuggling 200 kilograms of glass eels, which are listed as endangered species.

On Friday afternoon, customs at Brussels airport discovered that 18 identical suitcases had been checked in for a flight, all covered in plastic wrap, which was considered a remarkable find, a statement from the Halle-Vilvoorde public prosecutor's office read.

After scanning the luggage, they saw these suitcases also appeared to have identical contents. This resulted in one suitcase being opened to check the contents, and customs officers finding plastic bags filled with water and glass eels, with frozen bottles of water used as refrigerants.

Upon checking the remaining suitcases and passenger records, customs officers noted that six passengers of Malaysian origin were trying to smuggle a total of 200 kilograms of glass eels to Malaysia via Qatar and Vietnam. The estimated value of this amount of glass eels on the "black market" is about €400,000.

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Glass eels are endangered species — the European eel population has fallen by 90% in just a few decades — and they cannot be traded without the necessary certificates that must be requested in advance from the CITES department of the FPS Health. However, the owners of the luggage had no export permit.

The prosecutor's office ordered the arrest of the six passengers, who were intercepted before their flight departed. They will appear before the Council Chamber on Thursday. The maximum penalty for smuggling endangered species is five years in prison.

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