Wonsoek Lee of Changshin International today 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 today.
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.”