An American businessman and five Ghanaians have been sentenced to jail terms ranging from six months to five years for trying to smuggle 2,000 rare African gray parrots to the United States.

A national public tribunal on Thursday convicted 46-year-old Darrel Marion Alexander, of La Crescenta, Calif., and Ghanaians Christian Leslie Mills, Abraham Addoquaye Sackar, Nicholas Kofi Gyimah, John Ellison Sorboh and Wabi Bello.The state claimed Alexander, who was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment with hard labor, paid the Ghanaians who in turn bribed various officials for false permits to export the birds.

Alexander, who owns a company called Exotic Fauna International, was arrested at Ghana's international airport in June after a government official discovered the birds packed into 38 crates and squawking in the hold of an airplane.

The African gray parrot, which once was common in West African forests, is noted for its ability to learn quickly to talk. Excessive trapping of the birds and destruction of their habitat have made them scarce.

Their exportation from Ghana is illegal.

The prosecution claimed the men hired hunters to capture the parrots, paid off a customs official and forged documents.

All six of the defendants pleaded innocent when charged Aug. 29.

Mills later changed his plea to guilty on 21 counts of conspiracy, forgery, brigery and the attempted illegal exportation and received the heaviest sentence of five years' imprisonment and a $22,124 fine. He was threatened with a jail term of 15 years if he defaults on the fine and also is to surrender to the state $75,000 dollars he allegedly obtained from Alexander.