Washington: Eleven people, including six Chinese, and six corporations have been indicted on charges of illegally importing honey from China that was labelled as coming from other countries including India.
This was done to avoid anti-dumping duty, the Department of Justice said in a statement, adding that these included honey that was adulterated with antibiotics not approved for use in honey production.
Ten of the individuals were top executives of corporate defendant Alfred L Wolff GmbH and four affiliated defendant companies, a German food conglomerate whose US honey-importing business was based in Chicago.
Between 2002 and 2009, the defendants allegedly conspired to illegally import more than USD 40 million of Chinese-origin honey to avoid anti-dumping duties totalling nearly USD 80 million.
The 44-count indictment returned yesterday by a federal grand jury does not allege any instances of illness or other public health consequences attributed to its consumption.
The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to illegally import Chinese-origin honey, including honey tainted with antibiotics, into America by labelling it as originating in other countries to avoid paying anti-dumping duties.
This was also done to conceal and expand the illegal smuggling scheme by submitting false documents to obstruct the US Department of Commerce, it charged.
Two of the defendants, Stefanie Giesselbach and Magnus von Buddenbrock, both former executives of Alfred L Wolff Inc, were arrested in Chicago before leaving the country in May 2008 and are cooperating in the ongoing investigation.
Since then, four Chinese nationals, three of whom are also cooperating, have pleaded guilty to related federal charges two of them in federal court in Chicago and two others in Seattle.
Today's indictment brings the total number of individual defendants charged in the investigation to 15, in addition to the six corporate defendants.