SYDNEY – A 40-year-old Japanese man charged with attempting to smuggle 39 exotic reptiles into Australia appeared before a court Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Customs Service said.
Katsuhide Naito appeared briefly in the Commonwealth Court of the Brisbane Magistrates Court. He was charged with importing regulated live specimens without a permit under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Naito did not enter a plea or apply for bail, possibly due to a language barrier, the spokeswoman said. A translator has been requested and Naito was remanded in custody to reappear in the court on Friday.
Naito was allegedly caught carrying the reptiles in his luggage Monday by customs officers at Brisbane International Airport.
On arriving at the airport from Singapore via Thailand, the man was referred to customs for examination by an “alert immigration officer,” the statement said.
On opening the man’s hand luggage, Customs Service officers “were surprised to see something wriggling.” It was subsequently determined there were six snakes — four in clear plastic containers and two in shampoo bottles.
Under further questioning, the man reportedly revealed that a second piece of luggage also contained several snakes.
An examination of this luggage revealed a “menagerie of wildlife” with a further 33 reptiles, including green tree pythons, albino pythons, iguanas, filled-neck dragons, slider turtles, and tree monitors concealed in speaker boxes and food containers within the bag.
“As is often the case with the cruel trade of wildlife smuggling, several of the animals did not survive the journey,” Jenny Eutick, Queensland customs regional director, said in a statement.
The man, traveling with a Japanese passport, allegedly told customs officers he spends his time between Malaysia and Japan, the spokesman said.
If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 110,000 Australian dollars and 10 years in prison.
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