customs media release
Fish smuggler who tries to skirt Customs sentenced - Friday, 2nd March 2007
An Australian woman caught by Customs smuggling 51 live tropical fish concealed beneath her skirt was today sentenced to perform nine months of community service.
Ms Sharon Naismith, 45, pleaded guilty in the Melbourne County Court to attempting to import regulated wildlife in contravention of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Ms Naismith was searched by Customs officers on 3 June 2005 when she arrived at Melbourne International Airport on a flight from Singapore.
During the search, Customs officers became more suspicious after hearing "flipping" noises coming from the vicinity of her waist.
An examination revealed 15 plastic water-filled bags holding fish allegedly concealed in a purpose-built apron.
The fish were later identified as tropical Catfish with one fish, an Asian Arowana, being a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) listed fish. All of the fish are Prohibited Imports.
The value of the fish was estimated at $30,000.
As a result of the detection, Customs search warrants were executed by investigators at Ms Naismith's house. A further five fish were seized by Customs.
Customs acting National Manager, Investigations, Doug Nicoll, said that the sentence handed down reflected the seriousness of wildlife smuggling.
"Wildlife smuggling is a cruel practice, as many offenders ignore the health and well-being of the animals," Mr Nicoll said. "Such animals can also be potential carriers of disease and harm the Australian fish industry," he said.
"Customs encourages anyone who has information about the illegal importation or exportation of wildlife to contact the Customs Hotline on 1800 06 1800."
For further details contact Corporate Communication (02) 6275 6793
Images of the detection can be found in the image gallery under 'Illegal arrivals netted at Melbourne Airport - 6 June 2005'
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