Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Saturday, 14 November 2009

Spider 'smuggler' named by police

Spider seized by customs
Mr Adern could face up to a year in prison for smuggling the spiders

A British man arrested at Rio de Janeiro airport for trying to smuggle 900 bird-eating spiders out of Brazil, has been named by police as Lee Ardern.

The 26-year-old, who is thought to run a spider shop in the UK, was arrested after security X-rays detected the spiders in two suitcases.

He claimed to have bought the spiders for £3 ($5) each, and intended to sell them live in the UK for £30 ($50) each.

A fine of 1.3m reais (£452,136) has already been set, police said.

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The export of Brazilian animals without authorisation is banned. Mr Ardern, who has been released on bail but must stay in Brazil, has 20 days to present his defence and ask for the fine to be cancelled.

Police said his luggage was inspected at random after Mr Ardern arrived on a flight from Paraguay.

He said he was passing through Brazil on his way back to London.

Brazilian police said he did not have authorisation from the Brazilian Institute for Environment and Renewable Resources and he faces a possible penalty of six months to a year in prison.

The only certainty is that they were not created in captivity
Carlos Magno
Brazilian Institute for Environment and Renewable Resources

However, it is understood they regard a fine as a more likely punishment for the offence than imprisonment.

Carlos Magno, from the institute, said: "He said 600 spiders were of a species which is common in Paraguay but does not live in Brazil.

"The other 300 were of a sort which is found as much here as there. The only certainty is that they were not created in captivity."

Mr Magno said it is common in cases like this for the person to be allowed to travel once part of the fine is paid.

Brazil is known to be one of the biggest markets in the world for animal trafficking, with around 50,000 animals rescued by the authorities each year.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said it had not been informed of the arrest.

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