$1.8 Million Criminal Fine for Illegal Trade in Protected Coral
The Department of Justice announced Oct. 26 that a U.S. Virgin Islands company will pay a $1.8 million criminal fine for knowingly trading in falsely-labeled protected black coral shipped into the U.S. in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act. The company will pay an additional $500,000 in community service payments for projects to study and protect black coral and has also been ordered to forfeit dozens of jewelry items, ten artistic sculptures and over 13,655 pounds of raw black coral, the total value of which exceeds $2.17 million. DOJ states that the aggregate financial penalty of $4.47 million makes it the largest for illegal trade in coral, the largest non-seafood wildlife trafficking penalty and the fourth-largest for any U.S. case involving illegal wildlife trade. The company will also be subject to a 10-point compliance plan that includes an auditing, tracking and inventory control program.