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US man charged with spider smuggling says he was released by Turkiye court

May 14, 2024 at 8:02 pm

Turkish Court of Accounts is seen in Ankara, Turkiye on August 29, 2023 [Osmancan Gürdoğan – Anadolu Agency]

A curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York said, on Tuesday, he was released after Turkish authorities detained him on suspicion of trying to smuggle valuable poisonous spiders and scorpions out of the country, Reuters reports.

Lorendo Prendini was arrested on Sunday at Istanbul Airport by Turkish police why said they seized dozens of bags from his luggage containing some 1,500 scorpions and spiders, including tarantulas, as well as dozens of plastic bottles containing unspecified liquids.

Prendini told Reuters on Tuesday, via email, that he had appeared in court and was cleared of all charges.

“I was completely cleared of all charges by a Turkish judge and released. I do not wish to comment further at this time,” Prendini said.

BBC quoted Prendini as saying that airport officials had “completely ignored” his government permits that he said allowed him to take the samples out of Turkiye.

Police said the specimens seized were endemic to Turkiye and that their DNA could be copied and their poisons milked for use in making medicines. It said research showed that the market value of one litre of medicine obtained from scorpion venom was $10 million.

Neither Turkish police nor the court could be immediately reached for comment.

“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas. Due to privacy and other considerations, we have no further details to share,” a US State Department spokesperson told Reuters.

READ: Turkiye arrests spider smuggler said to be American Museum of Natural History curator