American man charged with spider, scorpion smuggling in Turkey says he is back in US

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

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.

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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,” Prendini said.

He later said he landed in the US, adding that initial media coverage was based on a “biased report” released by Turkish state media.

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 Turkey.

Police said the specimens seized were endemic to Turkey and that their DNA could be copied and their poisons milked for use in making medicines.

It said research showed the market value of one liter 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.

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