Australian Government wins appeal on wildlife smuggling

Media release

18 October 2019

The Australian Government and the NSW Court of Criminal Appeals have sent a clear warning to illegal wildlife traders with the handing down of a four year prison sentence to convicted international smuggler Mr Martin Kennedy.

The Federal Government had appealed the original non-custodial sentence of June 2019 following Mr Kennedy’s arrest for involvement in an international wildlife smuggling network.

Mr Kennedy will face a non-parole period for two years and six months for attempting to illegally import animals from Thailand and export to Sweden.

Today’s sentence sends a very strong message to the criminal syndicates in Australia who show no regard for the welfare of native animals and who further endanger threatened species populations.

This is one of the most severe penalties imposed under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and it will remain a priority of my department to pursue outcomes that send a clear signal to potential smugglers.

Seizures at Mr Kennedy’s home included  Chinese soft-shelled turtles, live alligator snapping turtles, live and dead snakehead fish, stingrays, live and dead sugar gliders, and dead chameleons, and underlined the cruelty of this trade.

Wildlife and forest crime has transformed into one of the largest transnational organised criminal activities in the East Asia and Pacific region, generating an estimated USD 19.5 billion annually.

What cannot be quantified with illegal international wildlife trafficking is the damage that the world-wide demand for wildlife products has on biodiversity, and the animals themselves, often transported in conditions that are stressful, very cruel and often fatal.


In 2016, Mr Kennedy attempted to export to Sweden and import from Thailand species including live shingleback lizards and live native turtles, which are regulated Australian species.

Mr Kennedy was arrested in March 2017 as part of Operation MELVILLE, a joint investigation between the Department of the Environment and Energy and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) into networks smuggling wildlife both into and out of Australia.

In June 2019, Mr Kennedy was sentenced in the NSW District Court in Sydney and received a sentence of three years imprisonment to be served as an intensive correction order and also requiring him to be of good behaviour and undertake 700 hours community service.

In August 2019, the proceeds of crime hearing was heard and Mr Kennedy forfeited $43,550.00 AUD to the Commonwealth.

Under national environment law the maximum penalty is imprisonment for ten years and/or a $210,000 fine for an individual or a $1,050,000 fine for a corporation.

Minister for the Environment