Cambodian official acquitted in macaque smuggling case

By Michael Doyle | 03/26/2024 01:45 PM EDT

The trial of the Cambodian Department of Wildlife and Biodiversity’s deputy director was complicated by language barriers and questions about investigators’ actions.

Two long tailed-macaque monkeys play.

Two long tailed-macaque monkeys playing on the steps at the Batu Caves north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Aug. 18, 2010. Mark Baker, File/AP

The acquittal of a Cambodian environmental official on wildlife smuggling charges has stung federal prosecutors and Fish and Wildlife Service investigators and rattled the larger effort that U.S. officials dubbed “Operation Long Tail Liberation.”

Following a trial that began March 12, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on March 22 acquitted Masphal Kry of two felony counts related to an alleged conspiracy to smuggle long-tailed macaques into the United States.

“Mr. Kry is back with his family in Cambodia,” said defense attorney Stacey Mitchell, a partner in the Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld law firm. “He should never have been charged, and we are grateful to the jury and the court for seeing that justice was done in this case.”


Kry was deputy director of the Department of Wildlife and Biodiversity for the Cambodian Forestry Administration when he was arrested at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in November 2022.