Trio jailed for smuggling 2,800 dead butterflies into China

Trio jailed for smuggling 2,800 dead butterflies into China

Trio jailed for smuggling 2,800 dead butterflies into China

Updated 9 November 2017, 14:05 AEDT

Chinese authorities jail three people for up to 10 years each for smuggling 2,800 dead butterflies into the country, in what is believed to be the largest case of its kind in the country.

Chinese authorities have jailed three people for up to 10 years each for smuggling more than 2,000 butterfly specimens into the country.

The group had been buying butterfly samples from overseas and mailing them to China falsely labelled as clothing or art since October 2015, state media agency Xinhua reported.

But in January 2016 customs officials intercepted a package labelled "dresses" and instead found a box full of colourful dead butterflies.

Overall authorities seized more than 2,800 samples, in what Chinese customs described as the "biggest endangered butterfly specimen smuggling case" uncovered in the country.

The smuggling case involved more than 1.5 million yuan ($294,000).

The court in Jinan, a city of 7 million people in eastern China's Shadong province, sentenced the three to jail terms of five, seven and 10 years respectively.

It also ordered the trio to pay fines ranging from 20,000-50,000 yuan ($3,900-$9,800).

The three had ordered the specimens from countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines, then had them posted to China and framed before selling on at a profit.

Butterfly specimens can be a lucrative business in China, with some species reportedly commanding more than 10,000 yuan ($1,900) on the collectors' market.

Of the 2,800 butterflies seized, almost half were listed as protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Xinhua reported.