Australia

Melbourne man Sai Kit Cheng allegedly caught with nearly $500k from smuggling reptiles

A man accused of smuggling native Australian lizards to Hong Kong was found with $500,000 in his car, a court has heard.Sai Kit Cheng is facing 26 charges including knowingly dealing with $498,760 being proceeds of crime, animal cruelty and disposing of protected wildlife.“Not guilty,” he told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday when he…

A man accused of smuggling native Australian lizards to Hong Kong was found with $500,000 in his car, a court has heard.

Sai Kit Cheng is facing 26 charges including knowingly dealing with $498,760 being proceeds of crime, animal cruelty and disposing of protected wildlife.

“Not guilty,” he told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday when he was committed to stand trial.

The 34-year-old allegedly inflicted cruelty to the blue-tongued and shingleback lizards in the process of mailing them overseas.

The Clayton man is accused of causing the animals “unreasonable pain and suffering” in June 2018.

He also illegally imported lizards into Victoria from NSW, according to charge sheets.

Mr Cheng is also accused of handling five shingleback lizards in June 2018, four eastern blue-tongued lizards in September 2018, two western blue-tongued lizards in October 2018 and another two shingleback lizards in the same month.

His lawyer Damian Sheales argued wildlife officers illegally searched his car where they found nearly half a million dollars in cash.

Mr Sheales quizzed wildlife officer Phuong Tran about whether she was allowed to search the car which was not specified in the warrant.

She carried out the raid at the alleged wildlife smuggler’s home and was the official holder of the search warrant.

Ms Tran told the court it was her belief she was able to search the Nissan parked at the complex, which belonged to the accused.

The defence lawyer probed the wildlife officer about whether she decided to search the car because Mr Cheng told her there was cash in there.

But she said that did not impact on her decision.

They also searched the Clayton unit for “unlawfully acquired reptiles” and other items, she said.

Mr Cheng will face court for a directions hearing in the County Court next month.

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