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Plant smuggler faces fines in New Zealand

Plant smuggler faces fines in New Zealand

WELLINGTON: An air passenger has been fined 2,250 NZ dollars (1,644 U.S. dollars) for following his cousin’s advice to smuggle plant cuttings and seeds into New Zealand, a statement of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said on Friday.

Deo Rajan Gounder appeared in the Manukau District Court in Auckland on Wednesday after pleading guilty of trying to bring four plants and 11 seeds into Auckland Airport in July last year, according to the MPI. MPI biosecurity officers found the plant material at the bottom of a chilly bin containing food. Two of the cuttings were Neem plants. The others were unidentified, the statement said.

The defendant told us he knew what he was doing was illegal. He said his cousin put the plants in the bin and told him to just try to get them in,” said MPI Passenger Manager Craig Hughes, calling this action “reckless that deserved a hefty fine.” In the past, the MPI has detected pests such as crazy ants, nematodes, taro mite and scale insects on plants from Fiji.