Rotorua bus driver fined $4,500 for smuggling cigarettes and seeds

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Media contact: MPI media team
Telephone: 029 894 0328

A Rotorua bus driver has been fined $4,500 for attempting to smuggle seeds into New Zealand, in breach of the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Woo Chan Shim, 58, pleaded guilty to 2 charges related to an incident at Auckland International Airport. He was sentenced in the Manukau District Court yesterday.

MPI regional team manager compliance investigations north, Simon Anderson, says this sentence serves as a good reminder that anyone who smuggles seeds or undeclared goods into New Zealand will be caught and prosecuted.

"It is important to remember that bringing unauthorised goods into the country by any method, whether smuggling through the border in person or receiving products by mail, puts New Zealand's biosecurity at risk."

New Zealand's isolated position in the world, and its high economic dependence on its primary industries, makes it particularly vulnerable to the introduction of any invasive pests and diseases through the importation of "risk goods".

On Monday 23 September 2019, Mr Shim returned to Auckland from Korea. He had ticked "no" to the question on the form regarding whether he was carrying goods on behalf of another person; "no" for "plants or plant products", and "no" to bringing in more than 50 cigarettes.

Mr Shim's bag was inspected, revealing 100 hidden cigarettes. The search was upgraded and 5 different packets of vegetable seeds were found concealed in a zip pocket of a pair of trousers in his bag. All products were seized.

"Mr Shim admitted to trying to hide the seeds in his trousers so they wouldn't be discovered by the quarantine officers. All returning passengers arriving in New Zealand must complete an arrival card and declare any risk goods they wish to bring into the country," says Mr Anderson.

Biosecurity New Zealand takes its role of protecting New Zealand from biosecurity threats very seriously. Our country is fortunate to be free of many of the invasive pests and diseases found in other countries.

"MPI must balance facilitating international trade, protecting the welfare of New Zealanders, and ensuring the health of our natural environment," says Mr Anderson.

Mr Shim also received a fine from New Zealand Customs for undeclared cigarettes.

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