Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Huy Ca TRUONG

Year: 
2015-2016
Category: 
Environment
Location: 
South Australia

The past owner and operator of Adelaide retail business, Budget Aquariums, has been sentenced in the District Court of South Australia for his part in a joint enterprise to import live fish from Singapore. Thirty-five year old man Huy Truong was sentenced to 2 years and 7 months’ imprisonment. He was released forthwith upon entering into a recognizance to be of good behaviour for a period of 2 years.

At the time of the offence Truong’s prime business trade was the sale of aquarium products, fish food and various species of fish. Mr Truong’s co-offender, Kuok Weai Alex Chang, a Singaporean national, was employed as the Head of Integrated Research and Development at Qian Hu Corporation Ltd, a Singapore based ornamental fish service provider. 

By pleading guilty to the charge Mr Truong accepted that his conduct was likely to result in him obtaining a commercial advantage over his competitors or potential competitors.

Over a number of months the co-offenders, who met at an industry conference, used the WhatsApp mobile application to discuss the importation of live fish into Australia, the lucrative nature of certain species, the number and cost of the import fish, the number of fish the offender had pre-sold his clients, the types of fish most resilient to live importation and trial baggage checks that Chang had conducted.

The day prior to the importation, Chang advised the offender that the total cost of the imported fish was $64,450. Truong then booked and paid for his co-offender’s accommodation in Adelaide.

On 2 February 2015 Chang arrived in Australia and was subject to a baggage examination. A total of 176 fish were located within 41 plastic bags filled with water, inside two suitcases. A number of the fish had expired and parts had been cannibalised by the live specimens. The remainder were euthanised due to disease concerns.  The combined market value of the 176 fish was estimated to be $235,000.

Warrants were executed at the offender’s residential and business premises.

Co-offender, Chang, was sentenced for his offences in November 2014 to 1 year and 9 months’ imprisonment to be released forthwith upon entering into a recognizance in the amount of $1,000 to be of good behaviour for 2 years.

In sentencing Truong, Adelaide District Court Judge, his Honour Judge Millsteed described the actions of the offender as serious and demonstrated a complete disregard for the treatment of the fish.

‘Your offending was serious. Your actions demonstrated a complete disregard for the ethical treatment of the fish, Australia’s quarantine laws and the environment. Your conduct was commercially motivated and was objectively serious and undermined the intent of the legislation’.

‘Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that the fish were or may have been diseased, the fish were euthanised on detection in Australia. Nevertheless, the fish could have been diseased and potentially put Australian species at risk. It is for such reasons that the quarantine laws exist’.

Australian Customs & Border Protection Service were the investigative and referring agency for this matter.

Charge/sentence

Huy Ca Truong was convicted and sentenced after a guilty plea on 22 March 2016 in relation to:

  • One count of aggravated illegal importation of an animal, committed via joint enterprise with Kuok Weai Alex Chang, contrary to section 67(3) of the Quarantine Act 1908 (Cth) and section 11.2A of the Criminal Code (Cth).

Truong was sentenced to 2 years and 7 months’ imprisonment to be released forthwith upon entering into a recognizance, in the amount of $1,000, to be of good behaviour for a period of 2 years.