Firms caught smuggling Chinese honey into US
Five charged, firms fined for imports that avoided US$180m in anti-dumping duties
Call it a case of honey laundering.
US officials said they had mounted a sting operation against two major firms illegally importing honey from China and selling it on the US market, avoiding a massive US$180 million in anti-dumping duties.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) described the huge bust as "one of the largest criminal anti-dumping cases in history".
The offence involved Chinese honey either being misdeclared as another commodity or transshipped through other countries such as India, Russia and Thailand to avoid trade duties.
Five people have been arrested and charged and the two firms, Honey Holding of Texas and Groeb Farms of Michigan, agreed to pay fines of US$1 million and US$2 million respectively.
Washington was abuzz with news of the bust, and lawmakers could not resist the urge to spread the puns on thick.
"This successful sting operation is sure to be a buzz kill for would-be honey smugglers," US Senator Charles Schumer said.
"For too long, foreign smuggling of this product has created a sticky situation for domestic honey producers. We need a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to honey laundering."
ICE deputy director Daniel Ragsdale, who announced the results of what he dubbed "Project Honeygate", said: "Schemes like this result in legitimate importers and the domestic honey-producing industry enduring years of unprofitable operations, with some even being put out of business."
Dozens of other commodities imported into the US under false descriptions or origins, authorities said, cost US taxpayers billions of dollars in lost import duties.
Ragsdale was quick to insist there was "no health and safety risk" despite some of the 4,900 barrels of seized honey being adulterated with antibiotics not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Ragsdale said authorities from China and other countries had co-operated with US agents in the case.