6 months jail; Brisbane grocer pleads guilty to illegal importation of frozen chicken and pork products

A Brisbane grocery chain owner who employed 35 people was jailed for six-months for illegally importing pork and chicken products into Australia from Korea, while the country was in the grip of a deadly foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

Archerfield-based Limeke Corporation Pty Ltd and its sole director Mark Kim, 49, pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court to the illegal importation of more than 14 tonnes of frozen chicken and pork products worth more than $70,000 on six occasions throughout 2010.

Judge David Reid said the illegal importation of pork patties, cutlets, ham strips and sausages put Australia’s livestock industry at risk of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that would have had “a devastating impact.”

He said the illegal importation of chicken products brought with them a risk of Avian Influenza and Newcastle disease, both of which had the capacity to “devastate” the poultry industry and could be characterised by “very high mortality rates”.

Judge Reid said there had been repeated outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and highly pathogenic Avian Influenza between 2006 and 2011 in Korea.

The court heard Kim’s company had been a quarantine-approved premises since March, 2000, but did not have a permit for the products he later smuggled in.

A shipment labelled as “frozen fishcakes, salted jellyfish and crab meat” was selected for a random quarantine inspection in late 2010 when a “number of suspect items were observed.”

Kim was sentenced to total of two-years and 11-months imprisonment, to be released on a good-behavior bond after six-months served.

Limeke Corporation was fined a total of $60,000.

 

Smuggled food poses foot-and-mouth risk in Australia

Australians take disease control at the border seriously. Fly into any Aussie airport from overseas and your contents will be scrutinized; they also have some of the best dog snifferes anywhere, and they’re everywhere. There’s even a reality show about customs control.

So it’s no surprise a senate inquiry has heard banned food is being smuggled into Australia from countries with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), jeopardising Australia’s agriculture.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) told a senate estimates hearing on Monday that smuggled goods posed a real risk to Australia, which has been free of FMD for more than 100 years.

Among the tonnes of illegal imports seized in raids this year have been food products, including more than 760kg of ice cream, from FMD countries.

The warning comes after a company director pleaded guilty in a Brisbane court last week to having dealt with illegally imported meat and dairy products from South Korea.

DAFF, in conjunction with Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and trading partners, has been running targeted campaigns, random cargo inspections and a hotline to crack down on illegal food imports.

One such campaign, known as Operation Hayride, was set up after DAFF uncovered during a routine inspection in late 2010, evidence of the deliberate import of banned foods.

DAFF selected 225 targets for inspection and raided more than 300 retail premises, discovering 132 tonnes of banned goods including meat and dairy products.

“One of the benefits with Operation Hayride was when you start digging you get more leads as you go,” said DAFF’s Tim Chapman from the Border Compliance Division.

Evidence from this saw company director Yoo Young Jack Kim last week sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for importing banned food from South Korea.