Cambodian official acquitted in trial that exposed monkey-laundering scheme

On March 22, a jury in Miami, Florida, found Cambodian forestry official Kry Masphal not guilty of conspiracy and smuggling in relation to allegations that he was involved in exporting wild-caught monkeys to the United States and falsely labeling them as captive-bred.

Masphal, the director of the Cambodian Forestry Administration’s Department of Wildlife and Biodiversity, was arrested on Nov. 16, 2022 while traveling through the U.S. to an international wildlife conference. The arrest came after a five-year investigation led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that centered around the surge in monkey exports from Cambodia to the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic as the demand for primates to test vaccines on soared.

Masphal was one of eight people named in an indictment unsealed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2022, but he was the only defendant to appear in court.

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