Barmy Army curry hopes turn to ashes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 December, 2006, 12:00am

Plans by a group of curry-craving English cricket fans to fly their favourite Indian dishes to Australia were dashed after quarantine officials seized the food on arrival and issued stiff fines.

The 10 Barmy Army fans spent a small fortune importing the curries from 15,000km away in time for the start of the third Ashes test yesterday. The unusual takeaway order, which would normally have cost about GBP140 (HK$2,142) came to more than GBP1,500.

The Englishmen, who claim there is no decent Indian food to be found in Australia, persuaded the manager of the Bengal Paradise restaurant in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, to send two staff members on a flight from Heathrow. Each had a suitcase stuffed full of chicken dhansak, mushroom pilau and other curry house staples.

When the restaurant's Raj Miah and his colleague landed at Perth airport on Wednesday night, they were quizzed by suspicious quarantine inspectors. They reluctantly owned up to the contents of the suitcases and were each made to pay an on-the-spot fine of A$220 (HK$1,346). Had they not admitted to trying to import the curries they could have been fined up to A$60,000 and left with a criminal record.

'What had us open-mouthed was the fact that despite all the warnings we'd issued when we heard of this story, not only were there two dozen containers of curry, but the gentlemen didn't declare they were carrying food,' said Carson Creagh, spokesman for the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service. 'We fixed them with a stern and beady gaze and they umm'd and aah'd before finally coming clean and confessing.'

Australia has some of the strictest quarantine control measures in the world to protect its A$30 billion a year agricultural exports from exotic diseases. The smuggled curries are due to be destroyed in an incinerator today. 'They get severely cooked and turned into ash. You could say it's extreme vindaloo territory,' Mr Creagh said.

Paul Burnham, chief organiser of the Barmy Army fan club, said: 'Given the strength of the pound against the Aussie dollar, I'm sure the boys are not losing too much sleep over it.'

But all is not lost. The two chefs were allowed to keep the sachets of spices they brought with them and hope to rustle up some curries in an Indian restaurant in Perth.