New Zealand nets wildlife smuggler with fish in pants

WELLINGTON (AFP) - A Vietnamese man's attempt to smuggle tropical fish into New Zealand in his pants floundered when he tried to get through customs with his pockets dripping water, officials said on Friday.

The man arrived at Auckland airport from Australia this week and officials suspected something was fishy because liquid was seeping from the bulging pockets of his cargo pants, the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) said.

The man initially said he was carrying water from the plane because he was thirsty but a subsequent grilling uncovered the presence of the fish, the MPI said.

It said the man had seven fish, all an unidentified species of cichlid, secreted away in two plastic bags in his pockets. He told officers he was bringing them to New Zealand for a friend.

MPI spokesman Craig Hughes said the man will face charges under the Biosecurity Act, which carries maximum penalties of five years' jail or a NZ$100,000 (S$99,604) fine.

"This appears to be a deliberate attempt to smuggle fish into the country without any consideration of the biosecurity risk involved," he said in a statement.

"That's something we take very seriously."

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