Plants up the sleeve earns passenger $3500 fine

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A Henderson woman was sentenced in the Manukau District Court in January for trying to get two loquat plants, with their roots attached, past quarantine officers at the Auckland International Airport.

Cashier Yi Cui, 30, of the Auckland suburb Henderson, pleaded guilty to a charge under the Biosecurity Act of knowingly trying to bring unauthorised goods into New Zealand and was fined $3500 plus court costs.

MPI Northern Region Manager Passenger and Mail, Craig Hughes, says these plants posed a serious biosecurity risk to New Zealand's primary industries.

"This sentencing is the end result of another great intercept by one of our Detector Dog Teams and will act as a deterrent to those passengers attempting to circumvent our screening processes."

On 22 May 2014, Cui arrived at the Auckland International Airport from China and presented her New Zealand passenger arrival card, on which she declared she wasn't bringing any plants or plant products into New Zealand.

Cui was then processed and was on her way to the exit gate when an MPI detector dog indicated she had something of interest on her person.

Cui was asked if she had any food or plants on her person and said "no", however the detector dog continued to indicate otherwise, and a short time later a quarantine inspector noticed the two plants contained in a plastic bag up Cui's sleeve.

During an interview Cui admitted she knew it was illegal to bring the plants into New Zealand, so she had removed them from her jacket pocket and put them up the sleeve of her shirt.

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