Mariyah Yahya, pleaded not guilty to the charge. Pix by Adnan Ibrahim

KLUANG: Five Cambodian men and a 55-year-old Malaysian woman of Cambodian descent, who was their 'getaway' driver, thought they could run off with their loot of agarwood (gaharu) which they poached from the Endau-Rompin national park early this year.

But their illicit activity deep in jungles of central Johor were sniffed out by the Forestry and Wildlife and National Park departments in a joint operation with army and police, who stopped them as they ended their three-week "jungle expedition".

They were caught while driving out of the jungle on a Toyota Hilux four-wheel drive vehicle that was stacked with seven gunny sacks of agarwood worth about RM20,000 and totalling 25kg.

The five men were also found to be in possession of the liver of a monitor lizard, which is a protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

A source said the prized agarwood were seized from the poachers when they were nabbed at Jalan Kahang-Peta, Kluang at about 6.25pm on March 11 this year.

The five men who are in their 20s to 40s were jailed five months ago after pleading guilty at the Kluang Session's court for the possession of agarwood and a separate charge of having the entrails of the monitor lizard.

The 55-year-old woman, Mariyah Yahya, however, pleaded not guilty to the same charge and is awaiting for the date of her trial.

Mariyah, whose parents are from Cambodia, possesses a permanent resident identification card. She was told by the same court today to reply to her representation to her court case.

Judge Rajeswari Kanakiah set Sept 10 for trial. Deputy public prosecutor Sharmini Arjunan prosecuted, while Mariyah was represented by counsel Md Taufik Md Tahir.

She had claimed trial on March 26 this year to a charge of transfering forestry produce without any removal pass under Section 68 (1) of the National Forestry Act 1984.

If convicted, she could be fined up to RM500,000 or jailed up to five years or both.

The other five men pleaded guilty to a similar charge and was jailed five months by the same court on Marcg 26.

They had also been jailed six months after they pleaded guilty to a second charge under Section 60 (1)(b) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 for possesion of parts of a monitor lizard, which was found in one of the gunny sacks in the Hilux.

Agarwood is a forest produce targetted by poachers due to their high value.

The resin from the tree is in high demand in countries in the middle east and Hong Kong to make items such as perfume, incense and essential oils.

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