Queenstown scorpion ring convicted

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Two Queenstown brothers admitted their part in a scorpion smuggling ring when they appeared in Queenstown District Court this morning (Monday).

Arrowtown electrician James Alexander Grant, 24, admitted charges of possessing and disposing of a black rock scorpion.

Queenstown builder Matthew Stuart Grant, 22, admitted charges of possessing and selling a scorpion.

Both men were charged under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

The pair were convicted and will be sentenced in the Queenstown on November 18, with Judge Michael Turner calling for a pre-sentence report to address both community and home detention.

A third man facing charges did not enter a plea.

Last week, Iszac Walters pleaded guilty in Christchurch District Court to smuggling the six Black Rock Scorpions (Urodacus manicatus) through Christchurch International Airport and then into Queenstown.

In April the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) received information that a man was in possession of a live scorpion and was keeping it in his bedroom.

As a result, his property was searched and a live scorpion was discovered in a tank.

After being made aware of the MPI investigation, the Grant brothers disposed of the scorpions in their possession by boiling them, crushing them and finally burning the scorpions’ remains.

MPI Canterbury compliance manager Peter Hyde says the ministry had no concerns that there were any remaining scorpions.

“We’re very pleased to see a guilty plea. The result is due to a lot of hard work by Ministry for Primary Industries investigators and legal team.

“We have expert advice that these scorpions could survive in the New Zealand climate, so 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 offending was regarded as youthful bravado rather than a serious money-making venture, Hyde says.

“However, as it posed a significant risk to New Zealand, MPI had little choice but to put the case before the courts.”

The ministry took biosecurity very seriously and appreciated the assistance of the public in reporting biosecurity risks, Hyde says.

“If you think you have found a pest, plant disease or animal disease that should not be in New Zealand, please call the exotic pest and disease hotline on 0800 80 99 66.”

Scorpions are restricted organisms under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

– Otago Daily Times