A brazen attempt to export lizards in potato chip tubes has resulted in a sentence of 3 years and 6 months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 2 years and 4 months for a Malaysian national on an expired visa.
26-year-old Chek Wei Javill Chin was this month sentenced in the NSW District Court after being arrested on 9 October 2019 for exporting and attempting to export regulated native specimens.
A joint operation between Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment’s (the department) Environmental Crime Investigators, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and New South Wales Police Force Criminal Groups Squad’s Strike Force Raptor between December 2017 and August 2018 found that Chin had attempted to export a range of regulated native species bound in socks and bags hidden inside containers with food, toys, clothing and shoes to Hong Kong.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the joint agency operation which led to the successful arrest and sentencing of Chin was another strong message for wildlife smugglers.
“We are focussed on bringing down smuggling syndicates and prosecuting individuals,” Minister Ley said.
“This is a cruel trade, one that inflicts pain and often death to the animals involved, and one which poses a real risk to biodiversity.
“My Department will continue to engage in joint operations with Australian Border Force, DELWP, and NSW Police to keep maximum pressure on those who engage in this trade.”
Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood said that the sentencing should stand as a stark warning to those who wish to participate in the cruel trade.
“This man was linked to numerous packages containing lizards and other native reptiles bound and hidden inhumane and harmful ways.” Assistant Minister Wood said.
“Illegal wildlife trade is a growing multibillion-dollar global trade that poses serious conservation and biosecurity risks for Australia, we will continue working together to bring it to an end.”
Through surveillance footage and fingerprints left on the parcels Chin was linked to the posting of 21 packages which contained an array of Australian native species such as Leaf-tailed and Knob-tailed geckos, Lace Monitors, Shingleback and Blue-tongue Lizards, King Eastern-water Dragons and a Stimson’s python.
The Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change the Hon Lily D’Ambrosio said this was a horrific case of animal cruelty which could not be tolerated.
“Wildlife smuggling is a lucrative crime and the Victorian Government, through the Conservation Regulator, places a high priority on investigating and prosecuting criminals who seek to profit from this cruel trade.”
“This investigation wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our partner agencies – Australia Post, Australian Border Force, RSPCA Victoria, Crime Stoppers Victoria, The City of Melbourne, Victoria Police – and information from the Victorian public.”
This sentence comes after a 35-year-old Malaysian national was deported last year after receiving a sentence of imprisonment for 12 months on four counts of attempting to export live regulated native specimens.
The woman was arrested and charged in relation to four of the seized parcels found during the investigation in to Chin.
She served her sentence in Western Australia before being released from custody into ABF detention and was deported on 11 September 2020.
Illegal wildlife trafficking has an immeasurable impact on Australia’s diverse biodiversity along with the animals themselves.
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.