Public servant charged for illegal importation of exotic fish

20 December 2018

(Issued by Department of Agriculture)

An Australian Government biosecurity officer will face court today over his alleged role in the illegal importation and sale of exotic fish in Australia.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) will be alleging in court that the 31-year-old Senior Biosecurity Officer at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) abused his position to facilitate the illegal importation of the rare fish, selling them with an online alias to evade detection.

AFP officers conducted a search of the man’s Sydney home on Monday, 12 November 2018, finding a number of exotic fish and more than $10,000 in suspected proceeds of crime.

The police activity into this matter follows 2017 enquiries by DAWR, Australian Border Force (ABF) and Department of Environment and Energy (DoEE). These investigations began as DAWR officials at Sydney International Airport stopped five illegal imports between August 2017 and February 2018.

The five cases involved Malaysian and Vietnamese nationals using similar methods to import the fish and contravene Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).

During their investigations, DAWR officials discovered evidence allegedly linking one of the Malaysian nationals to the 31-year-old DAWR employee.

An anonymous report to the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) Border Watch program in February 2018 also brought attention to suspected illegal sales of exotic fish through Facebook.

AFP Organised Crime Fraud and Anti-Corruption Detective Acting Superintendent Simone O’Mahony highlighted the importance of stamping out this kind of abuse of public office.

“Australian taxpayers put their trust in public officials to perform vital roles for our community,” Detective Acting Superintendent O’Mahony said.

“The alleged conduct of this man is an abuse of public office, and the AFP owes it to the community to investigate and prosecute these matters to the full extent of the law.”

Head of compliance at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Peta Lane, said the department had zero-tolerance for corruption and pursues every case with the full force of the law.

“The alleged illegal importation of exotic fish threatens the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity, so it’s a very serious offence,” Ms Lane said.

“The department’s risk management and security systems are constantly being strengthened to ensure that any fraud or corruption is quickly detected.

“These alleged activities were first identified by internal investigations and immediately referred to the AFP.”

The 31-year-old man is scheduled to face the Downing Centre Local Court today on the following charges:

  • possess illegally imported specimens, contrary to section 303GN(2) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conversation Act 1999;
  • illegally import goods, contrary to section 186(5) of the Biosecurity Act 2015; and
  • abuse public office, contrary to section 142.2(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).