BURNABY: A food importer has been fined $25,000 for illegally importing thousands of kilograms of cheese and evading more than $460,000 in duties.
The fine was imposed after Manuel De Oliveira, the owner of Beira Mar Importers Co. Ltd., pleaded guilty to willful evasion or attempted evasion of duties and to importing or attempting to import dairy products without an import declaration.
The offences were committed over a five-year period, from 2005 and 2010, when De Oliveira had a permit to import 4,300 kilograms of cheese annually.
But court heard that on 10 occasions, he either failed to report cheese shipments entirely or under-reported amounts of cheese.
He illegally imported a total of 18,725 kilograms of cheese, worth an estimated $188,000 US, and representing an evasion of $461,000 in duties.
When he under-reported cheese, he would obtain two invoices — one showing the correct amount and value and one showing a lesser amount and value.
The cheese, mainly from Portugal, was transported through the United States into Canada.
Under Canada’s highly regulated dairy industry, importers of cheese get a permit to import a set amount at a very low rate of duty. Imports above that quota amount are subject to a 245-per-cent duty.
The guilty pleas in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver came after several days of an anticipated 20-day trial.
In imposing the fine following a joint submission by Crown and defence, Justice Jennifer Duncan noted that the crimes were committed by De Oliveira solely for financial gain and continued despite the fact that he had been caught and fined twice previously.
The two previous cases related to shipments intercepted at the Pacific Highway crossing in Surrey. The shipments were reported as containing only grapes or grape juice, but Canada Border Services Agency officers found cheese in the shipments.
De Oliveira was fined more than $6,000 on the first shipment and $17,000 for the second shipment. He paid the first fine but successfully appealed the second fine.
The judge also noted that the accused appeared to be a man of otherwise good character who was planning to provide $1,000 to a church charity in addition to paying his latest fine.
“However, he did flout the law for five years,” said Duncan, adding that the penalty would generally deter other like-minded individuals.