Feb 142014

Two Japanese men sentenced for trying to smuggle lizards through Perth airportOriginal story by Rebecca Dollery, ABC News

Two Japanese men have been sentenced in Perth for trying to smuggle 30 native lizards out of the country.
Some of the shingleback lizards (Tiliqua rugosa) seized by authorities at Perth Airport in September. Photo: Samia O'Keefe, ABC News

Some of the lizards seized by authorities at Perth Airport in September. Photo: Samia O’Keefe, ABC News

Akio Nakamura and Yuki Okabe were stopped by customs staff at the Perth International Airport in September last year after the lizards were found inside checked luggage.

Both Nakamura and Okabe pleaded guilty to attempting to export the lizards to Japan and subjecting them to cruelty.

Nakamura’s suitcase contained 15 shingleback lizards and a skink and Okabe’s suitcase contained 13 shingleback lizards and a dragon lizard.

Nakamura was given a six-month suspended sentence for his role in helping to courier the retiles from Australia to Japan.

Okabe, who captured the lizards in the wild, was sentenced to 12 months in prison with a minimum of seven months.

Authorities said the 30 lizards could have fetched about $130,000 on the black market.

District Court Judge Anthony Derrick said he believed Nakamura’s role was limited to being a courier and he had no knowledge of the organisers of the undertaking and that he was an ‘unsophisticated person’.

But he said Mr Okabe’s role was ‘pivotal in the offending’.

“You were the person that collected from the wild a significant number of lizards, which you attempted to export,” he said in court.

“You, Mr Okabe, were responsible for the packaging of lizards into suitcases.”

The court heard the men stood to gain about $3,000 each from delivering the reptiles and about $70 to $80 on top of that amount per lizard.

The court heard the men, who have already served four and a half months in custody, have had a hard time because of cultural and language difficulties.

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