Two plead guilty to scorpion charges

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Telephone: 029 894 0328

Two people pleaded guilty today in the Queenstown District Court to charges related to the smuggling of six live scorpions into Queenstown.

Brothers James and Matthew Grant from the Queenstown Lakes District were charged with various breaches under the Biosecurity Act 1993. They will be sentenced on 18 November. A third man facing charges entered no plea.

Last week, Iszac Walters pleaded guilty in the Christchurch District Court to smuggling the six Black Rock Scorpions (Urodacus manicatus) through Christchurch International Airport and then into Queenstown.

In April 2013, the Ministry for Primary Industries received information that a man was in possession of a live scorpion that was being kept in his bedroom. As a result of this information, the address was searched on 19 April and a live scorpion was discovered in a tank.

After being made aware of the MPI investigation, the Grant brothers disposed of the scorpions in their possession by boiling them, crushing them and finally burning the remains. MPI has no concern that there are any remaining scorpions.

“We’re very pleased to see a guilty plea. The result is due to a lot of hard work by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) investigators and legal team,” says Canterbury Compliance Manager Peter Hyde.

“We have expert advice that these scorpions could survive in the New Zealand climate, so we view this action as an exceptionally stupid thing to do, especially in a region that is so important to New Zealand’s tourism industry,” he says.

“We regard the offending as youthful bravado rather than a serious money-making venture.  However, as it posed a significant risk to New Zealand, MPI had little choice but to put the case before the courts

“MPI takes biosecurity very seriously. We very much appreciate the assistance of the public in reporting anything they feel might pose a biosecurity risk. If you think you have found a pest, plant disease or animal disease that should not be in New Zealand, please call the exotic pest and disease hotline on 0800 80 99 66.”

Scorpions are restricted organisms under the Biosecurity Act 1993. The maximum penalty for each of the charges faced by the men is five years in prison or a fine of $100,000.

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