The US District Court for the Southern District of Florida on December 22 ordered the release on bail of senior Cambodian agriculture official Kry Masphal, but the agriculture minister claimed two days later that the official had yet to be let go.
Masphal was arrested last month in the US on charges of conspiracy to smuggle long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) into the country.
The December 22 release order came after three days of bond hearings, on December 19, 20, and 22, before Judge Kathleen M Williams in Chambers in Miami, Florida, and took immediate effect, according to the court document, obtained by The Post.
“For reasons discussed on the record during the aforementioned hearings, Mr Kry is ordered released as of the time of entry of this order and is to be fitted with a GPS monitoring system immediately upon release by the pre-trial services office in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York,” said the order, issued by the judge.
The document stated that Masphal would have to report to the Cambodian embassy in Washington and remain there until December 27.
“On December 27, 2022, Mr Kry will report to the pre-trial services office for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he will be re-fitted with another GPS monitoring system.
“Mr Kry will then reside at a residence in the Eastern District of Virginia where he will remain for the duration of this litigation. Mr Kry will remain at this residence on home confinement, with no exceptions, until further order of this court,” it said.
In a social media post, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina claimed that Masphal had not been released as of December 24.
“Despite [the] court order, DMC officers still keep on detaining Mr.Kry. What happens there?” he tweeted.
Masphal, director of the Department of Wildlife and Biodiversity Department at the agriculture ministry’s Forestry Administration (FA), was arrested in the US in November.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida (USAO-SDFL) charged Masphal with conspiring with a Hong Kong-owned company to illegally import macaques – sometimes referred to in US legal terms as non-human primates (NHPs) – into the US between December 2017 and January 2022.
He is one of the eight people indicted by the USAO-SDFL for allegedly conspiring with the locally-registered Vanny Bio Research (Cambodia) Corp Ltd to supply the company’s farms with wild macaques to be brought into the US in violation of its laws as well as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
But Cambodia has staunchly denied all the allegations. The agriculture ministry emphasised in a recent statement that the macaques are not captured in the wilderness and smuggled out, but instead bred and raised in captivity under humane conditions that are hygienic and conform to international standards.
Only the macaques born and raised in captivity are exported, as is obligated by the CITES convention and applicable laws, the statement added.