Two Queenstown brothers boiled, crushed and then burned smuggled black rock scorpions after learning an associate’s had been discovered.
Builder Matthew Stuart Grant, 22, and Arrowtown electrician James Alexander Grant , 24, will be sentenced on November 18 after admitting charges under the Biosecurity Act 1993 of possessing, selling and disposing of the scorpions.
Grant Fletcher, representing the Ministry for Primary Industries, told Queenstown District Court on Monday that Iszac Walters, 23, of Sydney, smuggled six of the scorpions in to New Zealand through Christchurch International Airport in February.
Walters later supplied them to James Grant. Four scorpions were supplied to Matthew Grant and the remaining two were allegedly sold to a co-offender, yet to appear before the court, for $300.
In April MPI received information the alleged co-offender was in possession of a live scorpion, kept in his bedroom. A search on April 19 unearthed a live scorpion in the wardrobe.
The defendant stated it was the only scorpion and he had found it in a take away box at Queenstown Primary School and decided to keep it.
An ultra violet search was carried out at the school, which tied up “significant” resources, but no scorpions were found.
Cell phone records indicated more people were aware of, or in possession of, scorpions, resulting in a search of Matthew and James Grant’s addresses.
When interviewed they stated Walters, an associate, had smuggled the scorpions in to New Zealand.
James Grant and Walters divided them into six take away containers – two were given to Matthew Grant initially, before he received two more, which were allegedly on-sold to the co-offender.
When the co-offender had his scorpion seized the Grant brothers “disposed of their scorpions by boiling them, crushing them and finally burning the remains”.
Judge Turner convicted both men and remanded them on bail ahead of their sentencing.
Judge Turner ordered a pre-sentence report to consider home and community detention, but says it was “no indication” of the sentencing outcome.
MPI Canterbury compliance manager Peter Hyde said in a statement yesterday afternoon expert advice indicated the scorpions could have survived in New Zealand.
“We view this action as an exceptionally stupid thing to do, especially in a region that is so important to New Zealand’s tourism industry.”
The maximum penalty for each of the charges is five years in prison or a fine of $100,000.
– Otago Daily Times