New Zealand imprisons German tourist for trying to smuggle lizards out of the country

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

NZ jails German tourist for smuggling reptiles

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A German tourist was sentenced to jail time Wednesday after he admitted trying to smuggle native New Zealand lizards out of the country — the second such case in five weeks.

Manfred Walter Bachmann, 55, was also ordered to be deported at the end of his 15-week sentence.

Bachmann, an engineer who is originally from Uganda, was caught with 13 adult lizards and three young reptiles in the southern city of Christchurch on Feb. 16 by Conservation Department inspectors.

The District Court in Christchurch was told nine of the 11 females were pregnant and expected to give birth to one or two young in the next few weeks. The reptiles had a value of 192,000 New Zealand dollars ($134,000) on the European market.

Prosecutor Mike Bodie said Bachmann had acted with two other tourists to try to smuggle the protected lizards out of New Zealand.

The court heard that Gustavo Eduardo Toledo-Albarran, 28, a chef from Carranza, Mexico, gathered the 16 lizards from South Island’s Otago Peninsula.

He then drove back to Christchurch with Thomas Benjamin Price, 31, of Gallen, Switzerland, described by prosecutor Bodie as the prime mover in the venture. Price was listed on court documents as both a stockbroker and unemployed.

In Christchurch, Price met Bachmann and gave him sealed plastic tubes containing the reptiles. The three men were arrested soon after.

Price admitted possessing the lizards and Toledo-Albarran admitted illegally hunting them. They were ordered into police custody Wednesday until March 29 and warned they faced prison terms.

Bachmann’s lawyer, Glenn Henderson, described his client as “a courier — a bit of a dupe in the middle.”

But Judge Jane Farish rejected the claims.

“I don’t buy into what he’s said about being naive or being a dupe,” she said. “This was clearly premeditated offending. Given his age and his traveling, he’s not that naive.”

Another German national, Hans Kurt Kubus, 58, was caught at Christchurch International Airport late last year with 44 small lizards stuffed into his underwear as he tried to board a flight.

In late January, Kubus was sentenced to 14 weeks behind bars and ordered to pay a 5,000 New Zealand dollar ($3,540) fine. He will be deported to Germany at the end of his prison term.

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