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Liquor firms fined for illegal imports

Hibiscus Coast App

Staff Reporter

20 June 2024, 6:54 PM

Liquor firms fined for illegal importsImporter, distributor fined for illegal alcohol. Photo by Chris F

Two companies were fined a total of $244,000 for attempting to sell thousands of bottles of illegal liquor, avoiding rules designed to protect consumers.

Golden Grand Trading Limited and Mayajaal Holdings Limited were sentenced in April in Auckland District Court after a successful prosecution by New Zealand Food Safety.

Golden Grand Trading pleaded guilty to three charges under the Food Act 2014, including operating as an unregistered importer, while Mayajaal Holdings pleaded guilty to one charge.

Judge RJ Collins fined Golden Grand Trading $142,000 and Mayajaal Holdings $102,000.

Additionally, both companies were ordered to share $36,000 in costs for disposing of the alcohol.

The investigation revealed the companies supplied illegal liquor to retailers between 2016 and 2019.

The offences involved 5,534 bottles of imported liquor with either missing lot codes or fake lot codes, valued at approximately $292,526.

The non-compliant alcohol was seized from the companies' distribution warehouse.

Compliance investigators also recalled 30 bottles, seizing seven from a liquor store and two from an online purchase.

Vincent Arbuckle, deputy director-general of New Zealand Food Safety, explained the importance of lot codes: "Lot codes ensure traceability in the event of a product recall and assure consumers that the product contents are genuine and unaltered."

Arbuckle emphasised the gravity of the violation: "Label integrity matters. When businesses circumvent the rules, they deceive consumers and potentially endanger them."

Despite testing confirming the liquor's authenticity, the lack of proper lot codes could complicate recalls, undermining consumer safety.

Arbuckle stated, "Our responsibility is to consumers and their safety."

The investigation found that importing liquor without lot codes was nearly 7.5% cheaper, a cost-saving measure that led to the non-compliance.

Golden Grand Trading had previously received a warning in 2012 for similar violations, resulting in a significant amount of alcohol being destroyed.

This week's sentence is part of 'Operation Spirit,' a broader compliance investigation by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

In 2022, another Auckland liquor importer was fined over $150,000 for tampering with lot codes.

Arbuckle concluded by urging food importers to adhere to updated rules: "We encourage all registered food importers to check the Ministry for Primary Industries website to ensure compliance."

An application to the court will be made to destroy the seized liquor at a specialised waste disposal plant.