Illegal reptile smuggling ring lands conviction and $2000 fine

Gisborne, Victoria resident Craig James Pender was this week convicted and fined $2000 for importing exotic reptiles into Australia in contravention of the Quarantine Act 1908.

Acting head of compliance at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Dr Robyn Cleland, said Mr Pender also received convictions for illegally exporting Australian lizards and illegally possessing exotic reptiles.

“The department takes intentional breaches of Australian biosecurity very seriously and we actively pursue and prosecute offenders onshore, off shore and at the border,” Dr Cleland said.

“Exotic animals can introduce devastating pests and diseases to Australia— Mr Pender’s irresponsible actions placed our national wildlife, environment and industries at great risk.

“Biosecurity is vital to our national interests. It protects Australia’s human, animal and plant health by reducing the risk of unwanted pests and diseases arriving in the country.”

Dr Cleland said the department undertook a joint investigation with the Department of the Environment and Energy and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, which led to the conviction of Mr Pender.

“A search warrant was executed on Mr Pender’s property, at which three illegally imported hog-nosed snakes were discovered. Investigators linked Mr Pender to the further illegal importation of four green tree pythons in 2009,” Dr Cleland said.

“Our investigation also identified links between Mr Pender and a person of interest in Norway—Bard Alexander Meringen—ultimately leading to the arrest of Mr Meringen for wildlife crimes and seizure of over two hundred live reptiles at his residence in Norway.”

Dr Cleland said the department was always on the lookout for deliberate attempts to undermine and circumvent our biosecurity system.

“While the majority of people using our mail centres and ports try to comply, we pursue those individuals who deliberately do the wrong thing to the full extent of the law,” Dr Cleland said.

“Anyone with information about breaches of Australia’s biosecurity requirements is urged to phone the redline reporting number on 1800 803 006.”

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