Big fine in US Virgin Islands coral-smuggling case
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, US Virgin Islands — THE former CEO of an upscale jewellery- manufacturing company has been fined nearly US$1 million for smuggling black coral into the US Virgin Islands.
The US Justice Department says a judge also ordered Ashu Bhandari to spend one month in jail, complete 300 hours of community service and pay nearly US$230,000 to the University of the Virgin Islands for projects to research and protect black corals.
The sentence handed down Tuesday marks the end of one of the largest federal cases involving illegally traded wildlife.
Bhandari pleaded guilty in November to one count of false classification of goods to hide shipments of internationally protected black coral from Taiwanese suppliers.
Black corals are found throughout the world and are an important marine habitat for fish and other forms of marine life.