Qian Hu employee in Aussie court on charges of smuggling endangered fish

A suitcase filled with black bags used to smuggle prohibited fish into Adelaide Airport on Feb 2, 2015. -- PHOTO: AUSTRALIAN CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION SERVICE
A suitcase filled with black bags used to smuggle prohibited fish into Adelaide Airport on Feb 2, 2015. -- PHOTO: AUSTRALIAN CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION SERVICE
Seven smuggled fish found in the luggage of a man after he arrived at Adelaide Airport on Feb 2, 2015. -- PHOTO: AUSTRALIAN CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION SERVICE
Seven smuggled fish found in the luggage of a man after he arrived at Adelaide Airport on Feb 2, 2015. -- PHOTO: AUSTRALIAN CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION SERVICE

ADELAIDE - An employee of Singapore ornamental fish firm Qian Hu appeared before an Adelaide court on Monday in a case of smuggling of exotic fish.

Customs officers allegedly found 20 plastic bags containing live and dead endangered fish, worth A$235,000 (S$ 247,000), concealed in the bag of Alex Chang Kuok Weai, 44, when he landed at the city airport on Feb 2.

Around 26 of the fish are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, ABC news reported.

The find sparked an international investigation, the magistrate's court heard on Monday. Chang may plead guilty to importing a protected species at his next hearing in three weeks. He is in custody because a suitable bail address was not found.

In a statement, Chang's employer Qian Hu said that their employee, head of Group Integrated Research and Development Department, was on annual leave when he visited Australia in his personal capacity.  

"We are not in a position to comment as this case is in the hands of the Australian authorities," a spokesman told The Straits Times.

The prosecution told the court it appeared that many of the fish had been micro-chipped, a practice common for rare and exotic species in parts of Asia.

A search of two properties linked to Chang in Adelaide led to the discovery of more exotic fish, it was alleged.