16:26 GMT17 February 2020
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    Siberian insect smuggler reveals 'truth' behind Madagascar arrest

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    KRASNOYARSK, March 12 (RIA Novosti) - A Siberian man recently freed from jail in Madagascar after being convicted of trying to smuggle rare insects and reptiles off the island said on Wednesday he had in fact been arrested over a photo shoot.

    Vladimir Yefremenko and his wife Kristina were detained at a national park in Madagascar on January 10 on charges of attempting to illegally take rare insects, a snake and a frog out of the country. They were subsequently sentenced to a $300 fine and three months in prison.

    Krasnoyarsk regional lawmakers appealed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in early February to assist in the case.

    "My wife and I were at a local national park taking pictures. We had all the necessary documents and permits. We were arrested for allegedly failing to pay for taking photographs," Yefremenko told local legislators.

    He went to complain about "a peculiar judicial system" on Madagascar, whereby a judge's assumptions could prove to be "conclusive evidence," and warned that any tourist could be prosecuted.

    Yefremenko, who owns a private 'rare creatures' zoo in his native Krasnoyarsk, thanked Siberian legislators for their efforts to gain his and his wife's early release from jail. He also said that he was planning to leave for the Congo in six months and that he would again fly to Madagascar in December.

    Madagascar, located in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa, is the fourth largest island in the world.

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