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JINAN - A court in east China has sentenced three people for smuggling 2,800 butterfly specimens into China, half of which are rare and protected species.
The three were given jail terms of five, seven and 10 years respectively, according to the Intermediate People"s Court of Jinan, capital of Shandong Province.
They were also ordered to pay fines ranging from 20,000 (around 3,000 U.S. dollars) yuan to 50,000 yuan, the court said.
The case involved more than 1.5 million yuan and is believed to be the largest butterfly smuggling case uncovered by Chinese authorities.
According to the court, since October 2015, the three had purchased 2,800 butterfly specimens online from countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines, had them posted to China and framed before selling the specimens online at a profit.
The case was uncovered in January 2016 when customs officers found colorful butterfly specimens inside a parcel from Malaysia which according to the attached declaration form contained "dresses."
Among the 2,800 butterflies, more than 1,200 are listed as protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and also under state protection in China.
Butterfly specimens are expensive and in demand on the private collection market. One species, Papilio chikae, can sell more than 10,000 yuan.
According to Judge Wang Guohui, China prohibits the sale, purchase or use of wildlife and their products under state protection.
Exceptions are made in special situations, such as scientific research and captive breeding, but the approval must be obtained from the government authorities.