Issued on: 03/02/2021 – 07:20

Wellington (AFP)

New Zealand authorities caught a woman who tried to smuggle hundreds of cactus plants hidden in stockings strapped to her body by airport security.

Wenqing (Wendy) Li, 38, from Auckland pleaded guilty to violating strict biosecurity laws when she tried to sneak into the plants from China in March 2019.

She was sentenced to 12 months of intense oversight and 100 hours of community service in an Auckland court, the Department of Basic Industries said on Wednesday.

“She strapped stockings with 947 succulents and cacti to her body and tried to smuggle them into the country,” it said in a statement.

“The cacti included eight endangered and threatened species. The plants were valued at over NZ $ 10,000 ($ 7,200).”

When a sniffer dog showed interest, she tried to dispose of the plants in the airport toilets, where they were found by law enforcement officers.

Department investigator Simon Anderson said the court made a strong point.

“This conviction is a good reminder that anyone who smuggles plants or other endangered species into New Zealand can face criminal prosecution,” he said.