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Auckland fishmonger fined $60k for importing, selling unauthorised fish

An Auckland fishmonger has been convicted and fined $60,000 for knowingly importing and selling unauthorised Bangladeshi freshwater fish.

Hilsa fish with lemons. Source: istock.com

Food import and wholesale business Khan Brother’s Distribution Limited was handed down the fine following prosecution by the Ministry for Primary Industries in the Waitakere District Court yesterday.

Company director Mustafezur Rahman Khan, also known as John Khan, received six months’ community detention and 12 months of supervision.

The 38-year-old and Khan Brother’s Distribution Limited pleaded guilty to two charges each for offences involving $70,700 in sales and unaccounted for fish between December 10, 2017, and July 6, 2018.

The court found Khan had imported Hilsa fish in violation of the Biosecurity Act 1993. The Bangladeshi freshwater fish cannot be imported under New Zealand’s biosecurity rules.

Khan had falsely declared the fish as Sardinella longiceps, or Indian sardines, in order to receive clearance for importation of 3500kg of the fish. The fish was sold from December 10, 2017 through to July 2018.

MPI director of compliance Gary Orr said MPI takes any breach of New Zealand’s biosecurity very seriously, adding that the rules are "there for a reason". 

“Anyone bringing products into New Zealand has a responsibility to ensure they are not introducing things which could be potentially harmful,” Mr Orr said today in a statement.

The offending was discovered after an MPI biosecurity officer saw the fish being sold on Facebook, he said.

Khan was prosecuted by MPI following an investigation into a Supavalue supermarket in South Auckland’s Otara, which resulted in another conviction earlier this year.

Khan’s brother, Moshiur Khan, and his company Khan’s 2nd Generation Limited were convicted and were each fined $10,000 after selling Hilsa fish from his shop on January 15, 2020.

The Khans run their respective businesses from the same Supavalue food store.