CHICAGO — Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized nearly 60 tons of illegally imported Chinese honey Wednesday that was destined for U.S. consumers.
The honey likely originated from the same exporter in Vietnam as another 60 tons of honey that was seized by HSI Chicago in the Midwest in April. Wednesday’s seizure was allegedly imported into the United States by a shell importer of record in New York, New York. Agents located the honey by combing through transportation shipping records to piece together its whereabouts.
Prior to seizing the smuggled honey, HSI sent samples to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Laboratory for analysis, where it was determined that the honey had a greater than 99 percent probability match with honey from China. Similar to the April seizure, Wednesday’s seizure was accompanied by altered reports from a private laboratory with analyses completely unrelated to the seized honey. The private laboratory fully cooperated with HSI and is considered a victim of identity theft.
With assistance from CBP Chicago, HSI seized the illicit honey June 29 from a warehouse in suburban Chicago. The seized honey will be destroyed in its entirety following its successful forfeiture at the conclusion of the government’s ongoing investigation.
In December 2001, the U.S. Commerce Department imposed anti-dumping duties after determining that Chinese-origin honey was being sold in the United States at less than fair-market value. The duties first imposed were as high as 221 percent of the declared value. Later these duties were assessed against the entered net weight, currently at $2.63 per net kilogram, in addition to a “honey assessment fee” of 1.5¢ per pound on all honey.
In 2008, federal authorities in Chicago began investigating allegations of organizations circumventing anti-dumping duties through illegal imports, including transshipment and mislabeling, on the “supply side” of the honey industry. The second phase of the investigation involved the illegal buying, processing and trading of honey that illegally entered the U.S. on the “demand side” of the industry. In these multi-year investigations, HSI Chicago and the Department of Justice together convicted nine individuals (not including 10 remaining foreign fugitives) in a series of global schemes which evaded nearly $260 million in anti-dumping duties on honey from China, and which also involved honey containing antibiotics prohibited in food.