Sausage smuggler es­capes big fine

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE -

‘‘Such an out­break [foot and mouth dis­ease] would crip­ple New Zealand's farm­ing in­dus­try and econ­omy.’’

Three pork sausages al­most smug­gled into the coun­try from In­dia could have brought New Zealand’s meat ex­ports to its knees.

And the govern­ment depart­ment re­spon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing the bor­der wanted the woman who tried to bring them in to pay a fine of more than $20,000.

In­stead, Welling­ton District Court judge Peter But­ler on Fri­day or­dered Maria Benevita Su­vira Lobo to do 200 hours’ com­mu­nity work, not­ing she could not pay such a fine.

Lobo, 59, of Porirua, had pleaded guilty to at­tempt­ing to pos­sess unau­tho­rised goods and mak­ing a false dec­la­ra­tion.

Lobo was given the meat by her brother while she was vis­it­ing Mum­bai, In­dia, in Jan­uary. She pack­aged the meat and printed la­bels that said ‘mixed vege pickle’, ‘pick­led meat vege’ and ‘stuffed car­rot pickle’.

Asked by a quar­an­tine in­spec­tor at Auck­land Air­port why she had done it, she replied: ‘‘I wanted to see whether you would catch me. I was try­ing to smug­gle the sausages in be­cause we don’t get this kind of sausage in New Zealand.’’ The meat weighed 1.3kg. In sub­mis­sions for the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries, Vatau Sa­gaga asked for the penalty start­ing point to be $20,000.

‘‘Such an out­break [foot and mouth dis­ease] would crip­ple New Zealand’s farm­ing in­dus­try and econ­omy.

‘‘The cost is mea­sured in bil­lions of dol­lars and would send the econ­omy into re­ces­sion,’’ he sub­mit­ted.

He said foot and mouth stood alone in pre­sent­ing the worst pos­si­ble eco­nomic and so­cial con­se­quences to New Zealand. It was highly con­ta­gious and en­demic to In­dia.

Sa­gaga said the im­por­ta­tion of raw meat was con­sid­ered the most likely route to foot and mouth ar­riv­ing in New Zealand

An MPI risk as­sess­ment ex­er­cise showed even a small out­break could cost the coun­try $5.8 bil­lion.

The judge said New Zealand had never had a foot and mouth out­break, and meat was the big­gest risk of all. An out­break would put ex­ports, farm­ing and jobs at risk.

De­fence lawyer Al O’Con­nor said Lobo re­alised she had been fool­ish and stupid to try it. It had been op­por­tunis­tic of­fend­ing and she had no pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions.

He said a fine so large seemed com­pletely over the top. Lobo ac­cepted there was a risk but she had been ig­no­rant of it.

The judge said he did not agree that a fine of that size was over the top, but ac­cepted it would be fu­tile to or­der it if she could not pay it.

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