Exporter hit with fines, jail time for fraudulent fumigation
Woods Grain Pty. Ltd. and its director Thomas Woods were today found guilty of dishonestly influencing a Commonwealth public official at Brisbane District Court resulting in 18 months jail and a fine of $680,000.
Mr Woods and his Queensland-based company were found to have colluded with a fumigation contractor to falsify certificates that consignments of chickpeas had been fumigated for export. They also charged exporters for the service that they did not deliver.
First Assistant Secretary of Compliance at the Department of Agriculture, Raelene Vivian, said complying with importing country requirements was critical to Australia’s reputation as a reliable trader of clean and safe food.
“This is a very serious offence—setting out to deceive the Australian Government into certifying product for export can seriously harm our trading status,” Ms Vivian said.
“We have a well-deserved reputation as an exporter of clean, green and reliable food and our chickpea exports are estimated to be worth around $416 million in 2014–15—so it’s a big and important industry that provides employment and income to rural communities.
“When criminal acts mean Australia is not complying with importing country requirements our entire trade is put at risk.
“The court found that this company also profited to the tune of $184,470 from this fraud. Exporters paid Woods Grain an extra $10 per tonne to fumigate with methyl bromide, on 18,477 metric tonnes of product.
“We take our responsibilities to our producers and trading partners very seriously, and this guilty verdict and punishment reflects the gravity of these crimes.”
Ms Vivian said Mr Wood now joins the other party to the fraud, the fumigator, who has served jail time for their part in the operation.
“These prosecutions send a strong message that the Australian Government does not tolerate illegal activity, and we actively seek out wrongdoers and prosecute with the full force of the law.”
If you witness suspicious behaviour or come across any goods that you believe have been illegally imported you can contact Biosecurity Redline to report anonymously on 1800 803 006.