Sunday, October 15, 2006

Snake Smuggler Jailed

Source: The Australian
A man who tried to smuggle snakes in cigarette packets into Australia has been sentenced to three months in prison. Gregory John Comans, 49, of Hervey Bay in southeast Queensland, was arrested at Brisbane International Airport after arriving on September 11, 2004, from Singapore with 19 baby pythons contained in cigarette packets in a specially-constructed body vest under his clothing. The Brisbane District Court was told $2605 in foreign currency Comans was paid to import the reptiles also was seized.
He admitted he had been approached in Amsterdam in The Netherlands to courier the snakes but denied knowing Terrence John Quinnell, who was caught the same day donning a vest containing 52 live parrot eggs and has been jailed for three years. The court also heard authorities found Comans' details on Quinnell.
The value of the snakes, which were destroyed by quarantine officials, could not be determined but the court was told they were highly sought-after in the pet market and more importantly, posed a threat to Australia's wildlife. Comans pleaded guilty to the charge of illegally importing regulated live specimens without a permit. Judge Ian Wylie today imposed a three-year sentence, with a non-parole period of 89 days, a $2500 surety and a five-year good behaviour period. The maximum penalties for the offence is ten years' jail or a $110,000 fine.
On Tuesday, defence lawyer Tony Entriken denied his client had sought a commercial profit from the bungled importation, saying he merely “succumbed” to an opportunity to make $2605 as a courier “at the bottom of the (smuggling) chain. It's the first time he has stepped off the straight and narrow (because of) the desperate financial circumstance he found himself in.
He said Comans worked for a building franchise in Bundaberg and a jail sentence would hinder his ability to provide for his wife and a two-year-old child, both whom live overseas. The Australian Customs Service said the sentence handed down to Comans should serve as a serious warning of the penalties possible for people involved in wildlife trafficking.
Queensland's acting regional customs director Andrew Hosking said wildlife smuggling was an extremely serious issue for several reasons. “We need to protect our country from quarantine risks,” Mr Hosking said. "And there are also good conservation reasons – Australia is a signatory to international conventions which outlaw the trafficking of endangered and exotic wildlife. Thirdly, wildlife smuggling is a cruel practice which often results in the death of many animals while in transit.

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