Wildlife smuggling ring dismantled

24 June 2020

A joint operation between the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and the NSW Police Force has dealt a heavy blow to a major wildlife smuggling syndicate.

Six search warrants were executed this morning by the NSW Police Force Criminal Groups Squad’s Strike Force Raptor and Commonwealth Environmental Crime Investigators across Sydney and the Illawarra.

Two men were arrested and charged for their involvement in the international wildlife smuggling network through importing, exporting and possession of native and exotic wildlife, as well as other fraud offences.

Across the six warrants an astonishing range of native and exotic animals were found and seized including turtles, pythons, lizards and deadly snakes such as a Death Adder and a Red-bellied Black snake.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the arrests demonstrated the Australian Government’s commitment to stamping out the illegal trade of wildlife.

“Organised criminals are seeking to profit from the high price that our unique wildlife fetches on the international black market and today we’ve made it clear that we will hold those people responsible,” said Minister Ley.

“This insidious trade puts lizards, birds and all manner of wildlife in awful conditions and has a terrible impact on our biodiversity.

“Well done to the officials from my department and the NSW Police Force who have superbly executed this operation today and disrupted the illegal trafficking of Australian native species.”

It will be alleged that members of the group arranged for Australian reptiles, including blue-tongue and shingleback lizards, to be mailed overseas and imported exotic reptiles, including CITES listed Green iguanas and yellow-spotted river turtles, to be sold on the Australian black market.

The warrants were executed at a home at East Hills as well as multiple Sydney properties.

This joint operation commenced in early 2019 after a Western Sydney man was charged with 169 animal abuse and trafficking offences.

Head of Environmental Compliance for the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment Monica Collins said this collaboration underlined the Australian Government’s commitment to protecting Australian wildlife from this cruel trade.

“We have strengthened our collaboration and intelligence sharing with international partners to detect and disrupt wildlife trafficking syndicates operating within Australia.

“These offences carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or a $210,000 fine.

“Recent criminal investigations have uncovered significant links between Australian and overseas wildlife trafficking networks.

“We remain resolute in our tough stance on this transnational criminal activity that threatens our unique Australian fauna and resilient agriculture industry,” Ms Collins said.

Investigations are continuing.

If you have any information about trade in illegal wildlife or wildlife products, you should contact compliance@environment.gov.au