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'Bird Man' Nabbed in Illegal Avian Import Scheme

Israeli man stopped by import inspectors at Ben Gurion Airport trying to smuggle 40 Zebra Finches into Israel.
By David Lev
First Publish: 11/24/2013, 3:40 PM

The smuggled birds
The smuggled birds
Ben Gurion Airport

An Israeli who returned from a trip to Holland was stopped by customs inspectors at Ben Gurion Airport Sunday morning – when he was found trying to smuggle 40 Zebra Finches into Israel.

The traveler walked through the “green lane” on his way into the passenger terminal, indicating that he did not have anything for the customs inspectors to check, and owed no duty on the items he was bringing into the country.

Generally, personal items are exempt from import duty, especially if the items being imported are worth less than $200 retail – but when a large number of any item is imported, travelers are expected to declare the items they import by walking through the “red lane,” where inspectors will valuate the merchandise being imported and present a bill for the duty due.

Travelers who are liable for import duties for their cargo and attempt to enter the country via the green lane are subject to fines, or even imprisonment in some cases. In the case of animals, birds, or plants, travelers are required to present their cargo to customs inspectors, together with licenses and authorizations allowing their import.

In this situation, a customs agent observed the traveler, a young man in his 20s, acting in a suspicious manner as he walked through the green lane. The inspector pulled him over and found the birds in an enormous backpack he was wearing.

In his defense, the traveler said that he raised birds as a hobby, and was not planning to resell them. The birds were valuated at NIS 1,200. The traveler was detained and transferred to the enforcement arm of the Agricultural Ministry, which is now in charge of the case.