Joint media release: Three-and-a-half years in jail for wildlife criminal

22 May 2021

The Hon. Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon. Jason Wood MP, Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs

Criminal wildlife smugglers were given a clear warning this week after a Sydney court sentenced a 35-year-old Sydney man, Jie Chen, to three-and-a-half years in jail for attempting to export 23 native reptiles concealed in two packages to Hong Kong.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the sentencing of Chen follows an investigation by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment into a criminal syndicate smuggling Australian native wildlife.

“This week’s sentencing underlines the Australian Government’s determination to crack down on all illegal wildlife trade and sends a very clear message: that if you engage in wildlife smuggling then you are likely to find yourself in jail,” Minister Ley said.

“In a week when the Morrison Government delivered the new Threatened Species Strategy, we need to remember that would be criminals seeking to benefit from the export of our precious wildlife are also a huge threat to our biodiversity.

“This is a highly lucrative and inhumane trade, with very significant financial rewards and it needs to stop.”

An extensive and complex investigation undertaken by the Department’s Environmental Crime Investigators identified Chen, an aquarium retail business owner and licenced reptile keeper, who between July 2015 and May 2018 sourced reptiles from interstate, importing them from Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia to sell overseas.

Two packages were intercepted at the Sydney Gateway Facility by Australian Border Force Officers in May 2017 and July 2018, both destined for Hong Kong. 

Jie Chen was sentenced at Parramatta District Court to three-years and six months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of two-years and three months. 

Assistant Minister for Customs Jason Wood said wildlife crime is a global issue that is increasingly recognised as a specialised area of organised crime. 

“Australia has strong laws in place to regulate the possession of, and dealing in, wildlife,” Assistant Minister Wood said.

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 it is an offence to export native specimens without a permit. Each wildlife offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or a $222,000 fine.

Anyone with information about trade in illegal wildlife or wildlife products is encouraged to contact or 02 6274 1900.