An enquiry that started in the UK in 2009 led to the conviction of the three men yesterday after a 23-day trial in the province of Ångermanland, in central Sweden.
The investigation began after 2,000 eggs were seized by police in County Durham and evidence involving 6,000 e-mails uncovered a network of people in England, Scotland, Sweden, the US and Australia who were involved in the illegal collecting and smuggling of eggs.
Andrew Seed of County Durham received a suspended jail sentence after being convicted in December 2009 of keeping, trading and smuggling birds’ eggs. Keith Liddell from Inverness was ordered to carry out 220 hours of community service after his conviction in March last year of 13 charges relating to trading and possessing eggs.
Enquiries by Police Scotland and RSPB identified the link to egg collectors in Sweden, which led to around 6,000 eggs being seized at three addresses in 2010. The three men, from Härnösand, Gothenburg and Vingåker, faced over 100 charges relating to bird’ eggs taken from the wild between 2003 and 2009, and also in trading in birds’ eggs. The man from Härnösand received a one-year prison sentence, while the other two received fines of around £1,100 and £3,800.
A clutch of wader eggs discovered at Liddell’s home were taken in Sweden. It is believed these were exchanged for red kite eggs.
At Seed’s home was a clutch of black-throated diver eggs – these eggs were matched to a photograph seized by Swedish police of the eggs still in a Swedish nest in 2007. A number of other clutches believed to be from Scandinavia, including crane eggs, were taken from the home of another man in Scotland.
Guy Shorrock, a senior RSPB investigations officer, said he hoped the convictions would send out a “strong message” to egg collectors around the globe.
“This enquiry, which started in County Durham in 2009, has unravelled an amazing web of people, as far as the US and Australia, involved in the taking, keeping and trading of birds’ eggs,” he said.
“There has been a long history of the authorities and RSPB working to tackle egg collectors in the UK. We suspect that egg collectors in other countries may be below the radar of the authorities – for example, the enquiry in Sweden generated another enquiry in Finland, leading to the seizure of another 10,000 eggs.”