Hauptzollamt Potsdam
By Raisa Bruner
March 18, 2019

Pastries come in all shapes and sizes. But perhaps presuming that a set of live tortoises would pass inspection as confections of the cake variety was pushing expectations a bit too far. That’s certainly the case for one man, who was apprehended earlier in March in Berlin’s Schönefeld airport after customs officials discovered he was carrying three tortoises placed in a cake box with clear plastic windows, their distinctive shells obvious to any onlooker.

According to translations of the press release shared by the airport, the passenger — a 69-year-old German national traveling back from Cairo Egypt — attempted to convince airport security officials the tortoises were highly realistic-looking “chocolate” tortoises after they stopped him moving through the “nothing to declare” line. His contention turned out to be quite a lie: “When opening the packaging, the customs officers found instead of sweets, however, three living specimens of Moroccan tortoise,” the release notes. Moroccan tortoises are an endangered species, and were promptly confiscated by airport security and placed “in the care of a border veterinarian,” according to the airport.

Animal trafficking is a serious crime, and if convicted, the passenger could be looking at a fine of as much as €50,000 — over $55,000 — or a five-year prison sentence.

Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com.

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