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SYDNEY, Australia (Australian Broadcasting Corp. June 30) – Australian Customs officers say they are about to lay charges against a Sydney importer involved in illegally exporting 25 kilograms of dried seahorse powder from Australia to New Zealand.

In a joint operation with New Zealand wildlife authorities, Australian Customs have investigated businesses in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

The national manager of investigations with Australian Customs, Richard Janeczko, says seahorses are protected under an international agreement, but are often used in herbal medicines.

He says those involved face a maximum 10 year jail term and fines of up to $110,000.

"The people in Australia have committed a number of offences," he said. "One is that they've disguised the goods on the way into Australia; they've also exported goods which are prohibited because they are made of endangered species. We'll be looking at the offences of import and export from Australia. New Zealand will be looking at offences at their end as well."

July 4, 2006

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