Monday, February 9, 2015

09/02/2015: Singaporean exotic fish smuggler faces 10 years jail

A Singaporean national faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted of smuggling exotic fish worth more than AUS$300,000 into Australia, The Mail Online reports.

Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) busted the plan to bring the fish into Adelaide when they inspected the traveller's luggage, uncovering up to 20 plastic bags.

The investigation began when officers apprehended the suspect at Adelaide Airport, on a flight from Singapore. Inside each bag they found a number of live and dead endangered fish listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Asian Arowana

According to The Adelaide Advertiser, Kuok Weai Alex Chang appeared in the local Magistrates Court by video link.

The publication reported that prosecutor Elim Chan told the court: "There are international investigations under way and the current charges may well not be the final ones."

A statement from Customs said that "officers referred the fish to officers from the Department of Agriculture, who valued the fish at over AUS$300,000".

A joint operation involving the local police and environmental authorities conducted further investigations, revealing that "the man had wider links to this trade".

Raids were undertaken at two more Adelaide premises, where more prohibited fish were uncovered, including one Asian Arowana, valued at almost AUS$30,000.

The owner was arrested and was bailed to also appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court.
ACBPS Regional Commander Central Region, James Watson, said illicit wildlife trafficking was a horrible trade, but that working together with partner agencies was the best way to stop it.

"These arrests should send a strong message to anyone involved in wildlife smuggling; Customs and Border Protection is serious about working with our law enforcement partners to target you," Mr Watson said.

Department of Agriculture’s Compliance Division head Raelene Vivian said any importation of live animals increased the bio-security risk that exotic pests and diseases could be introduced that would damage Australia’s environment, fisheries and economy.

"When Australia’s import rules aren’t followed then risks go unchecked and put our precious aquatic and marine life as well as our $2.3 billion fisheries industry in real jeopardy," Ms Vivian said.

"Our bio-security officers are always on the lookout for intentional non-compliance and when we detect it we work across government to put an end to it."

Read the article HERE.

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