Wildlife smuggling operation ringleader jailed

17 March 2021

An investigation into an illegal wildlife trafficking operation has culminated in the sentencing of its ringleader to 3 years and 6 months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 2 years and 4 months.

The offender, 26-year-old Chek Wei Javill Chin, was sentenced last week at Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court after pleading guilty to 9 charges, including attempting to export regulated native species, exporting regulated native species and aiding and abetting attempts to export native species.

A complex investigation led by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment’s Environmental Crime Investigators and assisted by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and New South Wales Police Force Criminal Groups Squad’s Strike Force Raptor connected Chin to 20 parcels found at post offices in Melbourne and Sydney between December 2017 and August 2018.

The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions following a referral from the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.

The parcels bound for addresses in Hong Kong contained an array of Australian native species including Shingleback lizards, Blue-tongue lizards, Geckos, Lace Monitors, Pythons and Water Dragons.

All of the reptiles recovered were regulated native species and were bound by sticky tape or socks and concealed in items such as potato chip tubes, toys and other household items.

Chin’s sentencing follows last year’s sentencing of a 35-year-old Malaysian woman to 12 months imprisonment.

The woman was arrested and charged in relation to four of the parcels seized and linked to Chin’s operation.

After serving her sentence she was deported having been found to be an unlawful non-citizen.

Illegal wildlife trafficking has an immeasurable impact on Australia’s diverse biodiversity along with the animals themselves.

The department currently has a further four offenders before the courts for their alleged involvement in wildlife trafficking and remains resolute in its efforts to tackle illegal wildlife trade.

The department works closely with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to identify and present evidence before the courts that reflects the seriousness of the crimes.

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 it is an offence to export a regulated native specimen without a permit.

Each wildlife offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or a $210,000 fine.

Fast facts:

  • Imported specimens found at the border are also generally considered a biosecurity risk by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment and are euthanised.
  • Native specimens seized during attempted export are initially transferred to wildlife carers, zoos or wildlife hospitals.
  • Reporting indicates that criminal syndicates in Australia poach live native reptiles without regard for age, health and weight, and possible impact on habitat and Indigenous artefacts in the collection process.