eBay egg importer fined $45,000

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A chicken enthusiast put the New Zealand poultry industry and native bird population at risk by attempting to illegally import live eggs for her hobby.

Karen Joanne Legget, 52, of New Plymouth, had earlier been found guilty of three Biosecurity Act charges of knowingly possessing unauthorised goods, in a trial by judge alone in Auckland District Court in March 2015.

Judge Blackie fined Ms Leggett $15,000 on each charge and $630 costs - $45,630 in total, the Auckland District Court heard on Friday (29 May 2015).

Ministry for Primary Industries Northern Investigations Manager David Blake says this was a deliberate and calculated attempt to avoid New Zealand’s biosecurity measures by someone who understood the system.

“She put the poultry industry and wild bird populations at considerable risk in order to hatch eggs for her own enjoyment. The serious nature of her actions has been reflected in the sentence.”

An investigation by the Ministry for Primary Industries revealed that Ms Legget, a chicken hobby farmer, had purchased live eggs in auctions on the eBay website from vendors in Scotland, England and Wales.

She had them delivered to a friend’s address in England who carefully packaged them to avoid breaking and falsely declared them as “chocolate eggs” on a United Kingdom customs form.

Three separate packages were identified as “risk material” by X-ray as part of MPI’s biosecurity system, and intercepted at the Auckland International Mail Centre.

The eggs had not been sterilised and there was still dirt and faeces on some of the eggs. The presence of faeces, dirt and debris from farm regions increases the number of serious diseases that could be present. 

Illegal imports of live eggs could introduce diseases to New Zealand such as avian influenza which has devastated poultry farms in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe since 2003.

The New Zealand poultry meat and egg industries provide over 4,000 jobs and earn over $2 billion a year.

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