Undeclared cheese

Undeclared cheese

Tonnes of unreported cheese at border nets $25,000 fine

Two shipments of cheese intercepted at South Surrey border were declared as containing only grapes or grape juice, court hears.

The owner of a Burnaby-based importing company was among travellers penalized recently for flouting the rules around bringing products into Canada.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency, Manuel De Oliveira, the owner of Beira Mar Importers Company Ltd., was fined $25,000 last month after pleading guilty to evading duties and importing dairy products – specifically, cheese – without an import declaration.

Two shipments – one with 235 undeclared boxes of cheese and another with 198 – were intercepted at the Pacific Highway border in South Surrey.

Oliveira, according to the related B.C. Supreme Court judgment, was found to have violated the rules on 10 occasions between Jan. 1, 2005 and Jan. 16, 2010. He “imported cheese and either failed to report it entirely and had no permit or import declaration, or underreported the amount of cheese contained in a shipment,” states the reasons for judgment.

The unreported cheese alone weighed 12,899 kilograms and was worth more than US$130,000. Underreported shipments added another 5,825 kg of cheese to the total.

Both of the shipments intercepted at the South Surrey border were reported as containing only grapes or grape juice, and in 2008, CBSA assessed De Oliveira a $7,625 fine – equal to 20 per cent of the undeclared value.

Crown calculated the total duty evaded over the five-year period at $461,917.65.

“At the time Mr. De Oliveira committed these offences, he was voluntarily participating in a system to protect the Canadian cheese industry and, by flouting it, he unfairly competed with people who followed the rules,” the judgment states. “He also removed the ability of health inspectors to ensure the cheese he was importing met health standards.”

According to the judgment, Oliveira was several days into a 20-day trial when he entered guilty pleas to the two counts.

His case was highlighted by the CBSA Friday as a reminder of the potential consequences of failing to declare food, plant or animal products.

Travellers were also reminded that a ban on all birds, raw poultry and poultry by-products that are not fully cooked, including raw eggs and raw pet foods, that was put in place Jan. 8 for products from Oregon and Washington State remains in effect.

Surrey North Delta Leader