(Issued by Department of the Environment and Energy)
Former rugby league football player Martin Kennedy has been sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to importing and exporting native and regulated animals under national environment law.
Kennedy, who boasted about his smuggling crimes to undercover police, was sentenced in Sydney District Court today. It will be served as an Intensive Corrections Order, requiring him to report weekly to NSW Corrections Services and carry out 700 hours of community service.
A joint investigation led by the Australian Federal Police and the Department of the Environment and Energy began after Australian Border Force intercepted 22 packages containing wildlife on three separate occasions between July and October 2016 at the Sydney Mail Gateway Centre.
The investigation also involved officers from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources who discovered Kennedy had attempted to import and export a range of wildlife including turtles, snakehead fish, stingrays, sugar gliders and chameleons.
Some of the wildlife was destined for Sweden, others were sent to Australia from Bangkok. Some of the wildlife was dead upon discovery.
Kennedy was arrested on 3 March 2017 when AFP and Environment officers executed a search warrant at a Bondi address. The officers also seized $43,500 cash as proceeds of crime.
Head of the Department of the Environment and Energy’s Office of Compliance Monica Collins said today’s sentencing reflects the Commonwealth’s commitment to protecting Australia’s plants and animals and targeting those who seek to exploit them for profit.
“These criminal activities pose real threats to many animal species, with impacts including potential extinction of rare species, and biosecurity risks to our agriculture industry.
“Wildlife crime is a global problem increasingly recognised as a specialised area of organised crime.
“Native Australian reptiles such as lizards and snakes are highly sought after overseas and the illegal trade in wildlife is one of the largest illegal trades in the world.
“What cannot be quantified with illegal international wildlife trafficking is the damage that the world-wide demand for wildlife products has on biodiversity, and the animals themselves, often transported in conditions that are stressful, very cruel and often fatal.
“Australia is working internationally to combat illegal wildlife trade, to ensure that the penalties match the seriousness of the crime, and to make sure international organised crime groups can't keep the profits from illegal wildlife trade.
“The Australian Government remains resolute in its efforts to tackle illegal wildlife trade.
“That is why the Department of Environment will continue to work with Commonwealth law enforcement agencies including the AFP, ABF and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to investigate environmental crime,” said Ms Collins.
ABF’s Acting Regional Commander (NSW) Matthew O’Connor said officers at Australia’s airports, international mail centres, and air and sea cargo ports remain alert to the threat of wildlife being illegally imported or exported.
“Our ABF officers are highly skilled to detect illegal, prohibited and/or restricted imports and exports in complex concealments thanks to our advanced border screening technology and our training methods. Anyone engaging in this sort of activity should expect that they will be caught and will face the full force of the law,” he said.
Head of Biosecurity Operations at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Nico Padovan, said Kennedy’s actions placed Australia’s wildlife, environment and industries at great risk.
“Illegally importing animals can introduce devastating pests and diseases to Australia and that is why we have strict conditions for animals that are permitted to be imported.
“The Department is always on the lookout for attempts to circumvent our biosecurity conditions and we pursue those that do the wrong thing to the full extent of the law,” Mr Padovan said.
AFP Detective Superintendent Andrew Smith added: “The AFP is committed to working with our partner agencies to investigate matters such as this, and reduce the impact that wildlife-related crime can have on Australian and global biodiversity.
“The illegal trade in wildlife is another avenue for criminal enterprises to generate profit at the expense of others. In these instances, it is the environment that ultimately has to pay the cost.”