MPI applauds stiff fine for border cheat

Media contact: William Minchin
Telephone: 029-894-014 | 04 8940164

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) applauds the stiff fine handed down to a woman who three years earlier tried to deceive an airport quarantine inspector and illegally bring packets of bird nest into New Zealand.

Chen Shar Wong was arrested at the Auckland International Airport on Wednesday after arriving from Taiwan. She faced two charges under the Biosecurity Act 1993 of knowingly making false and misleading statements to an inspector, and knowingly attempting to possess unauthorised goods under the Crimes Act.

On 28 February 2010, an MPI quarantine inspector seized four packets of bird nest from Mrs Wong at the airport. Mrs Wong had claimed the bird nests were sea weed.

Mrs Wong pleaded guilty to the charges in Manukau District Court on the same day as her arrest. She was convicted on both charges and fined $2,750.

Judge Cunningham said aggravating factors in the sentencing were the high biosecurity risk posed by the bird nests, and that Mrs Wong clearly knew she wasn’t allowed to bring the nests into the country.

Mrs Wong had previously been accredited by the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to work as a transitional facility operator. Such operators receive training in how to identify biosecurity risks.

“This is someone who understood our biosecurity system and knew the biosecurity risks of what she was doing,” says Greg Keys – MPI Manager North, Compliance and Response.

“The size of the fine reflects the severity of the offences. I sincerely hope it sends a clear message to anyone else who is considering flouting our biosecurity rules.”

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