Disgraced former rugby league player Martin Kennedy has faced a sentence hearing in Sydney on Thursday, having pleaded guilty to six offences including the exportation of native animals without a permit.
The former Brisbane Broncos and Sydney Rooster prop told the court he had hoped that illegally importing and exporting animals would help in paying off debts to a convicted fraudster.
Kennedy was banned from the NRL in 2016 for almost three years by an anti-doping tribunal, ending his rugby career.
Kennedy, 30, told the Sydney Downing Centre District Court that he was looking to cover a $25,000 debt he owed to friend Neil Simpson, a known bank fraudster who has more recently been involved with illegal trading of exotic animals.
The ex-footballer was caught in 2016 when authorities investigating a wildlife smuggling ring seized several units of live animals, including snapping turtles, sugar gliders and shingleback lizards.
Kennedy opened a snake breeding farm during his playing career but told the court that he “didn’t want to” attain the proper permits for exporting some of the animals.
“I didn’t feel the need. I disagreed with the strictness of the legislation and didn’t think it was warranted,” he said.
Kennedy testified that his reasoning behind accepting a loan from Mr Simpson was to assist in paying off “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in legal fees backed up from his anti-doping ban.
Kennedy declared he had not been given money to start a joint-investment into buying and breeding albino snakes, denying Mr Simpson’s claims.
“The first I heard of the albino snake breeding program was when the statement was tendered to the court (this year),” he said.
Mr Simpson argued that he had paid Kennedy $109,000 over two instalments to breed exotic wildlife, but had no record of the deal.
Kennedy’s hearing will continue Friday with Judge Sean Grant disclosing he plans to sentence the ex-footballer on June 7.