Chinese couple jailed and fined US$8.8 million for selling smuggled beef

Husband and wife team sold about US$4.4 million worth of uncertified meat products before being caught

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 1:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 September, 2017, 4:33pm

A couple from eastern China have been fined 58 million yuan (US$8.8 million) for selling uncertified frozen beef smuggled from Brazil, local media reported.

The husband, identified by his surname Yang, and wife, surnamed Teng, were also sentenced to prison terms of five years and four years, respectively, news portal Zjol.com reported on Monday, adding that the fine was a record for the crime.

Police discovered some smuggled beef during a routine check of a wet market in Wenling in the coastal province of Zhejiang in January 2016, the report said.

They linked the discovery to a couple, originally from neighbouring Jiangxi province, whom they accused of smuggling beef to sell to retailers in Wenling.

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The couple later told police they began buying smuggled beef and other meat products like tripe and cow heels in 2014. They said their suppliers were based in the provinces of Guangdong, Henan and Hubei, but the report did not make clear how the meat had made it into the country.

By the time they were detained in March 2016, the couple had sold about 29 million yuan’s worth of goods, police were quoted as saying.

Four meat retailers in Wenling were also charged with selling uncertified food. The report did not say when the couple was sentenced or what punishments were handed down to the retailers.

Under China’s food safety laws, anyone found guilty of selling uncertified food faces a prison sentence of between one and five years, and a fine of up to twice the revenue their activities generated.

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Beef consumption in China has seen significant growth in the past few years as consumers develop a taste for the meat that is lower in fat than pork, the country’s staple. Earlier this year, the government relaxed its long-standing restrictions on beef imports from several major suppliers, including Brazil, the US, South Africa and Ireland, to help feed the demand.

China last year became the world’s second-largest beef importing country, with about 29 per cent of the meat coming from Brazil, according to the Meat Import Council of America. Its imports are forecast to grow 17 per cent this year to 950,000 tonnes, the council said.