Jail, $25,000 bill for plant smuggler

An Auckland man has been jailed for nine months for the illegal importation of aquatic plants and aquarium equipment.

Henry Tan was sentenced in North Shore District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to 36 charges of bringing in plants and equipment from Singapore. He was also ordered to pay $25,000 towards finding and killing the plants.

Judge John Cadenhead said the case was serious offending against the Biosecurity Act and the impact could have been catastrophic for the country.

Greg Reid, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's compliance and enforcement investigations manager, said after the hearing that it was "one of the most serious cases of deliberate offending I have seen".

"Some may argue that it is just some plants but that doesn't stack up when you look at some of the biosecurity issues we have had to confront in recent times, like didymophenia geminata [rock snot], varroa and fire ants."

In Tan's case, MAF commissioned a "delimiting survey" to identify the plants and minimise the risk of them spreading in North Island waterways.

Tan got his brother to post him plants from Singapore that he knew were unavailable here, declaring them as gifts.

Only plants listed in MAF's import standards were allowed to enter the country. Tan did not hold a permit to import aquatic plants and his home was not an approved containment facility.


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