I didn’t admit to smuggling, says Sissen.

I didn’t admit to smuggling, says Sissen. Parrot breeder tells court the Tory leader must have "misunderstood" A report on the Sissen trial in the issue of "Cage & Aviary Birds" for week ending 15.4.2000.

World renowned bird breeder Harry Sissen last week dismissed claims by Tory party leader William Hague that he had confessed to illegally smuggling parrots into the UK.

Sissen, 61, told Newcastle upon Tyne Crown Court that the MP for Richmond, North Yorkshire, must have been mistaken about what he said when he visited him at his constituency surgery.

Sissen had gone to see Mr Hague to complain about Customs & Excise officers who had raided his farm and seized many of his precious hirds, during April 1998.

Customs swooped on the Sissen farm at East Cowton, North Yorkshire, and found three very rare Lear’s macaws and six blue-headed macaws which, they say, were smuggled into the UK illegally.

Sissen went to see Mr Hague fo1lowing a second raid in Oetober 1998. During the visit Sissen admitted smuggling three Lear’s after trips to Yugoslavia, Mr Hague had earlier told the court.

Two stuffed Lear’s macaws have been on display in the courtroom since the start of the trial more than two weeks ago.

Mr Hague told the court: "He was emphatic he had not in general smuggled birds and eggs into the country but he did say on one occasion he had smuggled three birds from Yugoslavia. He said it had been some years before but he didn’t give precise dates.

"It was at the same time when violence and warfare was breaking out in Yugoslavia because he referred to this violence as being one reason why he had done this exceptional act. I made a note of what he had said."

But Sissen told the court that he had been to Yugoslavia to see some birds, had rescued them from the war-torn region and taken them to Slovakia.

He said he intended for them to be there until Slovakia became part of the European Community, when he would be able to get proper papers to bring them into Britain.

He explained: "I was very upset when I went to see Mr Hague. I had been sleeping very badly since the raid. I still do.

"Sometimes I don’t explain myself very well. I don’t remember saying I smuggled birds from Yugoslavia. I would say that I had taken them out of Yugoslavia. I never said anything about smuggling them into the U.K. He must have misunderstood.

Sissen kept the birds at his farm where he lives with his wife and daughter. After European zoos tried unsuccessfully to breed the birds they turn to Sissen, granted him a licence and he was given a pair.

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( If you drive out nature with a pitchfork, she will soon find a way back)

Horace (65-8 BC)