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Accused fish smuggler says animal was pet

A Vietnamese national accused of trying to smuggle an endangered fish into Australia around his neck says he was planning to keep the animal as a pet.

Van Ho Le, 34, appeared in Adelaide Magistrates Court charged with importing a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) specimen after he was stopped at Adelaide Airport last month.

It is alleged he had a fully red Asian arowana in a bag hanging around his neck as he disembarked a plane from Malaysia.

Also known as a dragonfish, Asian arowana can grow up to 90 centimetres long and have been rumoured to sell for up to $300,000 in China.

Le told reporters after Wednesday's hearing that he did not intend to sell the fish and did not know it was an endangered species.

"I was going to keep it as a pet," he said.

Magistrate Maria Panagiotidis continued Le's bail to reappear before the court in August.

Following Le's arrest, Australian Border Force SA chief Brett Liebich said the fish had to be humanely euthanised because illegal imports pose a biosecurity risk.

"The ABF takes the illegal wildlife trade seriously," he said.

In Australia, it is illegal to own an Asian arowana unless it is legally imported.

The maximum penalty for trade offences is 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $210,000 for individuals or up to $1,050,000 for corporations.

© AAP 2019

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