Animals rescued from alleged global racket

Jodie Stephens

Native snakes, birds and turtles are among the animals found during searches of NSW homes as part of investigations into an alleged global animal trade syndicate.

Police said they found magpies, a death adder, a red-bellied black snake, a python, lizards and turtles when they searched homes at at East Hills, Petersham, Greystanes, Riverstone, Whalan and Albion Park Rail on Wednesday.

The discoveries followed an investigation in which police allegedly uncovered a syndicate involved in the illegal trade of native and exotic fauna across Australia, Canada, Asia and the United States.

Police claim they also discovered large-scale fraud and money laundering and have charged two men.

A 55-year-old man was arrested at the East Hills home on Wednesday, while a 27-year-old man was arrested at the Greystanes home.

The older man faces 72 charges including obtaining money by deception, knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime, exporting native species without a permit, and an identity offence.

He has been refused bail before a scheduled appearance at Bankstown Local Court on Thursday.

"Police will allege in court that the man co-ordinated the illegal trade of Australian native animals and illegal importation of exotic fauna," NSW Police said in a statement.

"It will be further alleged that the man obtained nearly $1 million through large-scale identity fraud and $50,000 through money laundering offences."

The 27-year-old man has been charged with dealing with proceeds of crime, dealing a protected animal, possessing a regulated live specimen from unlawful import, and possessing a non-native regulated specimen.

He was granted bail to appear at Fairfield Local Court in July.

Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow said a range of animals had been seized during the syndicate investigation, including exotic tortoises, Burmese pythons and crocodiles.

"In June last year, investigators seized two albino iguanas that were allegedly purchased by members of this syndicate for $10,000, along with 160 other reptiles," Supt Critchlow said in a statement.

"Earlier this year, two zero bearded dragons were sold for $5,000 and seized by police after they were allegedly posted as mail items.

"Not only have some of these animals been found in terrible conditions, some were located deceased through lack of basic care."

Police say the animals found on Wednesday were seized by authorised wildlife handlers.