(Issued by Department of the Environment and Energy)
Two Chinese nationals living in Belmore, NSW have been arrested and charged as part of an ongoing investigation into illegal wildlife trafficking led by the Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE).
The couple, a 29-year-old woman and a 32-year-old man, allegedly made multiple attempts to smuggle native and exotic animals out of Australia between November 2018 and January 2020.
The animals were headed for Hong Kong and Taiwan, concealed in parcels among electronic speakers and toy trucks, before being intercepted at the Sydney Mail Gateway Facility by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers.
NSW Police Force officers from Campsie Police Area Command, along with investigators from the DoEE Office of Compliance Environmental Crime team, executed three search warrants at the Belmore address in the early hours of last Thursday (23 January 2020).
Investigators located three rooms with numerous wildlife enclosures. The specimens seized included 30 snakes, 43 lizards, 40 turtles, 22 tortoises, 22 frogs, five salamanders and 19 reptile eggs.
The man and woman were arrested and taken to Campsie Police Station, where they were charged with 17 offences in relation to the attempted export of regulated native specimens.
Investigators will allege in court the couple attempted to export a total of 45 reptiles between November 2018 and January 2020.
The maximum penalty for these offences is imprisonment for 10 years and/or a $210,000 fine for an individual or a $1,050,000 fine for a corporation.
The couple was granted strict conditional bail to appear at Burwood Local Court on Tuesday, 18 February 2020.
This result follows two arrests by DoEE late last year for wildlife smuggling offences, highlighting the department’s ongoing commitment to detecting and disrupting wildlife crime and exposing the organised crime syndicates coordinating the export and import of live animals.
The department works collaboratively with other Australian Government, state and territory regulators such as Australian Border Force and state police as well as local wildlife parks for the housing of seized animals.
In October 2019, the Australian Government won an appeal in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeals on the sentencing of convicted international wildlife smuggler Martin Kennedy, who as a result of the appeal was sentenced to a new sentence of full-time imprisonment for four years with a non-parole period of two years and six months.
The outcome of this appeal sends a very strong message to other criminal syndicates in Australia who poach live native reptiles without regard for age, health and weight, and the possible impact on habitat and Indigenous artefacts in the collection process.
Native Australian reptiles are highly sought after overseas, and wildlife crime is increasingly recognised as a specialised area of global organised crime which requires coordinated domestic and international enforcement capabilities to disrupt.