National

No good luck for Adelaide fish smuggler

By AAP Newswire

An endangered red dragon fish was meant to bring an Adelaide man good luck.

Instead, it brought Van Ho Le nothing but trouble after he was busted trying to import it into Australia from Vietnam in a bag around his neck.

Le pleaded guilty to importing the rare fish, also known as a red Asian arowana, after being nabbed at Adelaide Airport in April this year.

The 34-year-old had bought the fish in Ho Chi Minh City for $250, believing it would bring him and his family luck and intended to keep it as a pet.

But in Adelaide Magistrates Court on Friday, he was fined $800 for illegally importing a rare species and for making a false customs declaration.

The court was told Le had been on holiday in his homeland but had to return early to deal with issues involving his autistic son.

He saw the fish in a pet store and bought it "on a whim".

"His lucky fish has turned out to be most unlucky," defence counsel said.

The court heard there was little complexity or planning to Le's offending with border officials becoming suspicious when they spotted a certificate in his luggage which indicated the fish had been bred in captivity, making it legal to sell in Vietnam.

He then made frank admissions to customs staff, telling them it was in the bag around his neck.

Le knew it would be illegal for him to bring the red dragon into Australia in such a manner but was not aware the fish was endangered and listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Magistrate Greg Fisher described Le's offending as at the lower end of the scale imposing the $800 fine and also ordering him to pay the commonwealth's prosecution fees.