customs media release
Customs targets wildlife trafficking ring in four states - Monday, 20th September 2004
Customs has severely disrupted an international wildlife smuggling racket following raids on five rural properties in four Australian states late last week.
Customs Investigations National Manager Richard Janeczko said the raids were part of the biggest ever operation conducted by the agency in its efforts to identify and prosecute smugglers involved in importing and exporting wildlife.
Officers searched properties in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, discovering large quantities of Australian native and exotic birds and eggs.
"This was a major operation aimed at disrupting an organised trade in wildlife between Australia, Africa and South East Asia in particular," Mr Janeczko said.
It follows the seizure by Customs of 19 pythons and 52 bird eggs from passengers at Brisbane Airport on 11 September. Two men have been charged in relation to the importation and have been bailed to reappear at the Brisbane Magistrates Court on 1 October.
In the most recent raids:
- Bendigo,Victoria, Friday 17 September. Customs officers searched two rural properties and found up to 1000 birds. Seven parrots, believed to have been imported, have been seized. One person has been interviewed and is assisting Customs with inquiries.
- Mudgeeraba, Gold Coast, Qld, Friday 17 September. Officers located a large number of birds, seized evidence and 11 exotics including macaws and parrots.
- Ballina, NSW, Thursday 16 September. Customs officers located a large quantity of exotic birds and eggs and seized property and other evidence.
- Wundowie,WA, Thursday 16 September. Customs, acting on information received from the WA Corruption and Crime Commission, seized property and other evidence.
- All detected birds are now being evaluated, identified and cared for in conjunction with appropriate authorities. Further seizures of birds found in the raids are expected as this process is completed.
Mr Janeczko said that in all cases, Customs investigations were continuing and charges were expected to be laid.
"This is a complex operation involving co-operation with a range of Federal and State agencies.
"Customs acknowledges the cooperation and assistance provided by the WA Corruption and Crime Commission which has played a key role in this investigation.
"Identification of a large number of birds and eggs is a key task for the investigation and this will occur over the next week.
"These co-ordinated raids have sent a strong signal to anyone involved in the international wildlife trade that their actions are under heavy scrutiny.
"The penalties for trafficking in wildlife under Australia's federal laws are substantial with maximum fines of up to $110,000 and/or ten years gaol.
"Customs and other agencies are committed to working together to prevent this illegal trade," Mr Janeczko said.
Photos of birds found in Bendigo, Victoria, and at Mudgeeraba QLD, are available from the image gallery.
Customs Corporate Communication 02 6275 6793 (24hours)
For interviews regarding the operation in each state, contact the relevant Customs Regional Directors:
- NSW (David Collins) - (02) 9213 2008
- QLD (Jenny Eutick) - (07) 3835 3116
- WA (Paul O'Connor) - (08) 9430 1613
- VIC (Geoff Johannes - Acting RD ) - (03) 9244 8653
Join the Media releases mailing list.