Two brothers yesterday entered guilty pleas to serious biosecurity breaches after scorpions were smuggled into Queenstown from Australia.
James Alexander Grant, 24, electrician, of Arrowtown, and his brother Matthew Stuart Grant, 23, builder, appeared before Judge Michael Turner in the Queenstown District Court charged with, respectively, possession and disposal of scorpions and possession and sale of scorpions.
Two others, Iszac William Walters, 23, and a fourth man, faced charges of breaching the Biosecurity Act after six black rock scorpions were smuggled from Australia through Christchurch Airport and then into Queenstown.
Ministry for Primary Industries lawyer Grant Fletcher told the court scorpions were smuggled in film canisters and given to James Grant. In turn, he gave four scorpions to his brother who sold two.
"In the very worst case scenario an illegally introduced organism could have truly catastrophic effects on New Zealand's primary and tourism industries," he said.
In April, the MPI was told a live scorpion was being kept in a Queenstown bedroom.
Investigators recovered a scorpion from a wardrobe and were told it was found in a takeaway box at Queenstown Primary School. The ministry searched the grounds using ultraviolet detectors, but nothing was found.
A production order was granted for cellphone texts, some of which discussed scorpions and suggested more people were aware the creatures were in Queenstown.
The brothers were convicted and remanded for sentence on November 18 while Walters will be sentenced in Christchurch on December 11.
Judge Turner called for a report to consider community detention or home detention, but said all sentencing options were available.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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