Alleged lizard smuggler arrested trying to flee country

·1-min read

A foreigner has been arrested at Perth International Airport after allegedly trying to smuggle native Australian reptiles overseas.

The 26-year-old man was attempting to fly to Hong Kong on Friday when he was stopped as part of Operation Nemo, an investigation launched in January into an organised crime syndicate trafficking native wildlife.

It came after investigators seized evidence during a raid at a West Perth home on Wednesday.

The foreign national has been charged with the attempted exportation of Australian reptiles, including shingleback and northern blue-tongued lizards, between January and March.

He will face a Perth magistrates court on Monday and could face up to 10 years in jail and fines of up to $275,000 for each breach of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said Australia's unique animals deserve the strongest possible protection from wildlife traffickers, with specialist investigators working at home and abroad to eradicate transnational organised crime groups.

"This arrest sends a warning to anyone out there thinking of getting involved in wildlife crime, we are watching, you will be arrested, and you could go to jail," she said in a statement on Sunday.