Flower buff fails to bluff biosecurity officers

5 June 2018

(Issued by Department of Agriculture)

A man was convicted and fined $1000 at the Northern Territory Local Court on 15 May 2018 for attempting to smuggle plants, bulbs and seeds into Australia.

Head of biosecurity operations at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Nico Padovan, said that Biosecurity Officers at Perth International Airport found a large amount of plant material in a passenger’s suitcases and pockets.

“On 20 May 2017, Peter Gus Passas tried to bluff his way through biosecurity checks by telling officers that he only had honey and oregano to declare,” Mr Padovan said.

“Officers used an x-ray machine to help find fresh plant material hidden in shoes and rugs in Mr Passas’s suitcase.

“A sniffer dog search indicated that Mr Passas was hiding more organic material in his pants pockets including seeds and fresh plants with roots and soil still attached.

“In total, 844 individual plants, bulbs and seeds were found, as well as eight packets of undeclared flower seeds and two packets of undeclared rice.

“Bringing plant material into Australia provides a pathway for exotic pests to arrive in the country.

“This puts our $60 billion agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries and environment at risk.

“In addition to the $1000 fine, the conviction was recorded on the man’s criminal record which he will need to declare when applying for visas or jobs.

“All international travellers carrying foods, plant material or animal products in their luggage must declare them on their incoming passenger card.

“This case shows that those who intentionally try to thwart our systems by not declaring biosecurity risk material will be appropriately dealt with.”

Be biosecurity aware: visit the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website for more information on what can’t be brought or mailed to Australia.

For information about what can and can’t be sent to Australia go to agriculture.gov.au/travelling.

Photos are available on request.