Customs officials destroy $19,000 handbag


(CNN) — A shopper learned an expensive lesson when her $19,000 alligator-skin handbag was destroyed by customs officials in Australia because it entered the country without the correct import license.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) seized the Saint Laurent bag, bought online from a boutique in France, at a cargo depot in Perth, Western Australia in January.

The buyer had spent 26,313 Australian dollars on the handbag, according to the Australian government.

While alligator products are allowed into the country, their access is controlled under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to ensure they are not linked to the illegal wildlife trade.

Although the buyer had secured an export license from Europe, she did not have a CITES import permit for Australia, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said in a statement.

As a result, the department said, it confiscated the handbag. However, it decided not to take any further action against the buyer.

Speaking about the incident, Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley warned importers that they must have the correct permits to bring certain products into the country.

“We all need to be aware of what we’re purchasing online as restricting the trade of animal products is crucial to the long-term survival of endangered species,” Ley said, adding that Australia closely monitors what comes into and out of the country.

Jason Wood, the Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, said the country looks out for illegally imported items including “fashion accessories, tourist trinkets, furs, taxidermy animals and ivory.”

A Canadian gray wolf pelt is among the items recently seized by ABF officers in Perth.

In Australia, wildlife trade offenses can be punished with up to 10 years in prison and a A$222,000 fine.