“We do not believe deliberately evading the controls that apply to the import of corals should be regarded as a trivial offence,” said OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport.
“It adversely impacts the conservation in the wild of the species concerned and undermines honest collectors and exporters in the country of origin. It also clearly jeopardises honest businesses which operate within the law. By offering a wider selection of corals and avoiding the costs of legal imports, this type of operator diverts business away from honest traders.
“And this illegal activity inevitably affects the reputation of the whole industry both in the UK and globally.
“Ultimately we have to ask retailers and hobbyists to be very careful about where they buy unusual or hard-to-get corals from. If what’s on offer seems too good to be true then it probably is and, if you’re a retailer, you should always be asking for the import permit number. Buying from unscrupulous dealers hurts the industry and the hobby, and threatens the conservation of coral species.
“We also have to thank Border Force for pursuing this and we will always support them where there is evidence of criminal activity.”
Lee Webster was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months. For more information go to the Manchester Evening News.