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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Billionaire's Helicopter Hunt Draws Heat

Eprod.comDan Duncan
HOUSTON -- A Texas billionaire could face criminal charges for shooting a moose and sheep while riding in a helicopter during a big game hunting trip in Siberia in 2002, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Dan Duncan, the 74-year-old founder of pipeline giant Enterprise Products Partners, appeared before a grand jury in Houston on Wednesday. He answered questions about the trip he and others took with Russian guides.

Duncan told the Houston Chronicle he did not know it was illegal in Russia for him to have shot the animals while in the helicopter. He said neither animal was considered endangered.

No complaints or charges were filed in Russia, said Duncan's lawyer, Rusty Hardin.

Hardin said Washington prosecutors might use the Lacey Act -- a law passed in 1900 designed to prevent the interstate and international trafficking of rare plants and animals -- to bring felony criminal charges against Duncan.

He could face jail time if found guilty, his lawyer said.

Andrew Ames, a spokesman for the Justice Department, had no comment Thursday when contacted by The Associated Press.

Duncan, a lifelong hunter, said he shot the moose while flying in a helicopter with his Russian guide, who is now a top official with the country's hunting licensing agency.

He said he assumed it was legal to take such a shot since local guides and outfitters are usually expected to know the local laws, and expressed astonishment at the investigation in Texas by a U.S. prosecutor of an event in Russia.

"What the hell is the U.S. interest in bringing felony charges here for hunting on Russian soil, where not one single person has complained?" Hardin told the newspaper. "Is this really the best use of our prosecutorial resources?"

Duncan had hunted with the guide once before, in the Caucasus Mountains in the 1990s, and on that occasion also shot an animal from a helicopter.

Duncan, who ranks 85th on Forbes' worldwide list of billionaires, has an estimated net worth of $8.2 billion.

Hardin said he expected to hear soon whether the grand jury would decide to indict. The statute of limitations expires in September, he said.

AP, Reuters