CHINESE NATIONAL SENTENCED FOR SCHEME TO DEFRAUD UNITED STATES OVER HONEY IMPORTS
False Paperwork Used to Hide Chinese Origin of Honey; One Shipment Tainted with Banned Chemical
BOA ZHONG ZHANG, a citizen of China, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to time served, about 17 months in prison, for Conspiracy to Enter Goods in the United States through False Statements and to Smuggle Goods into the United States, and Introduction of Adulterated Food Into Interstate Commerce. ZHANG is a 20-year employee of a bee products company in China, who was arrested May 6, 2009, in Los Angeles while traveling in the United States. U.S. District Judge James L. Robart noted that ZHANG will likely be deported, and so will face additional time in immigration detention.
“Knowingly misrepresenting the contents of an imported product can have significant repercussions and potentially put unsuspecting members of the public at risk,” said Leigh Winchell, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations. “ICE will continue to investigate this type of import violation to help protect the health and safety of Americans.”
According to the statement of facts in the August 2009, plea agreement, in 2005, the President of Changge Jixiang Bee Products Limited asked ZHANG to set up a transhipment scheme in the Philippines so that Chinese honey could be shipped through the Philippines to the United States to avoid the tariffs placed on Chinese honey. On behalf of Changge, ZHANG hired a company in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, to tranship the Chinese honey to the United States. Chinese honey was unloaded at the warehouse, and re-labeled as a “Product of the Philippines.” In April 2005, ZHANG oversaw the first shipment to the United States of falsely labeled honey. Later that summer, ZHANG met with co-defendant Chung Po Liu, of Bellevue, Washington. Liu owned two companies involved in honey imports and sales. At Liu’s request, ZHANG arranged for twenty-one shipments of the falsely labeled honey valued at $1.6 million, through both the Philippines, and a similar scheme established in Thailand. Since the honey was labeled as Philippine or Thai honey, Liu avoided paying an anti-dumping tariff imposed on Chinese honey of approximately $2.9 million. One of the shipments which arrived in January 2008, was contaminated with ciprofloxacin, which is an antibiotic that is not permitted to be in the food supply.
ZHANG and Liu were indicted by the grand jury on June 4, 2009. Liu pleaded guilty last month and is scheduled to be sentenced on November 29, 2010.
Since 2001, anti-dumping duties have been applied to all honey imports from China. Antidumping duties are additional duties used to offset the effects of unfair trade practices that give imports an unfair advantage over competing U.S. goods. The duty on Chinese honey was 183% from 2001 to 2007, and has been 221% since 2007.
The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Norman Barbosa, and Special Assistant United States Attorney John Odell. Mr. Odell is an attorney with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, specially designated to handle customs cases in federal court.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.