Illegal imports highlight biosecurity risk to livestock sector

Beef Central, 22/09/2015

Wonsoek Lee of Changshin International yesterday pleaded guilty of deliberately contravening Australia’s biosecurity requirements, after illegally and knowingly importing dairy products into the country.

Mr Lee was convicted of breaching the Quarantine Act 1908, fined $20,000 and handed a suspended sentence of 1 year 7 months imprisonment at Sydney District Court on Monday.

First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Agriculture’s Compliance Division, Raelene Vivian, said the conviction sent a strong message of the serious consequences of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) entering Australia.

“Dairy products from overseas have the potential to carry FMD—which, if established in Australia, could cost our economy more than $50 billion over 10 years,” Ms Vivian said.

“That’s why we take deliberate non-compliance so seriously—and Mr Lee and his company were found to have deliberately altered product descriptions and import documentation to gain a commercial advantage.

“Contrary to his documents and the conditions of his import permit Mr Lee was found to have imported a large amount of high-risk product.

“Not only that, Mr Lee also disobeyed an order to move the goods into quarantine, instead moving them to another, non-approved facility.

“We offer training courses to help importers comply with our laws and as this case demonstrates, when they are ignored, we certainly take action.”

Ms Vivian said this prosecution was one of a number of successful investigations undertaken as part of Operation Hayride.

“Operation Hayride was an investigation to target deliberate and serious breaches of the Quarantine Act,” Ms Vivian said.

“It was initiated after evidence of deliberate importation and distribution of prohibited foods was discovered in 2010.

“It also targeted high-risk items, such as meat and dairy products, which have the potential to carry FMD and other diseases that could seriously impact our agricultural industries, environment and economy.

“I strongly urge importers and members of the public to follow our biosecurity requirements because, as this prosecution demonstrates, we take our job seriously and are on the lookout for wrongdoers.”

Source: Department of Agriculture


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  1. Anita Lethbridge, 23/09/2015

    I’m appalled that the Dept of Agriculture’s Compliance Division, Raelene Vivian believes that the fine and suspended sentence is a deterrent. I would hope that Minister Barnaby Joyce, Cattle Council Australia and the likes of NFF will bring pressure to bear for a more appropriate fine and sentence. I shudder to imagine how many other companies have had lighter sentences if this is the incident that makes the news.

  2. Sandra Baxendell, 22/09/2015

    I saw this when it was in the DAFF newsletter and was appalled at such a light fine & the suspended sentence. We have good models that show how many billions of $ a small and large Foot & Mouth outbreak would cost Australia. With the lack of government vets in the bush and massive cattle movements that NLIS can graph surely someone could had done a better job of doing an impact statement for the court or was it a poorly trained judge? This needs an appeal about the light sentence.

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