Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Exotic plant smuggler fined after MPI investigation

A Tauranga man has been fined $5,250 for attempting to smuggle exotic home and garden plants from Thailand, the United Kingdom, and India.

Scott David Peters, 33, was sentenced in the Auckland District Court yesterday on one charge under the Biosecurity Act of attempting to import plants when he did not have a permit to do so, following a successful prosecution by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

“Attempting to smuggle plants that do not have biosecurity clearance has the potential to cause the introduction of unwanted pests or diseases that could seriously affect this country’s agricultural and horticultural industry,” says MPI regional manager compliance investigations, Simon Anderson.

“When we find evidence of a deliberate attempt to break rules that are in place to protect New Zealand at the border – we will prosecute.”

The sentencing follows multiple, unsuccessful attempts by Mr Peters to import plant material into New Zealand, all of which were intercepted by MPI.

“In September of 2019, Mr Peters imported a package of plant bulbs from India. It was intercepted at the International Mail Centre and destroyed before it reached his Tauranga property.”

“MPI contacted Mr Peters about the issue and provided educational advice to deter him from future offending. Despite understanding his obligations under the Biosecurity Act, he persisted in trying to import plant material, including a live rooted plant from Thailand which was incorrectly declared as home décor,” said Mr Anderson.

It was intercepted at the border and did not enter the country.

“This was the catalyst for a more complex investigation, including executing a search warrant and forensic review of evidence. During this investigation, MPI intercepted 6 attempts at illegally importing plant material into New Zealand.”

He said Mr Peters tried to get the plants into the country “by stealth”.

“Biosecurity rules are there for a reason – to protect New Zealand from potential diseases that could seriously threaten the health of New Zealand’s agricultural and horticultural industry.”

“An outbreak of an exotic fungal or viral disease could have a devastating effect on the economy, the environment and our communities.

“In New Zealand we are free from many pests and diseases common in other parts of the world. Anyone thinking of breaking the rules should know we will take action to keep it that way,” says Mr Anderson.

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