Man fined over $100k for adding chemicals to honey in bid to pass it off as mānuka

A man who was "the architect" of adding chemicals to honey to pass it off as more expensive mānuka has been fined $112,500 plus costs.

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Tak Yoon Lee was sentenced in the Auckland District Court. Source: 1 NEWS

Tak Yoon Lee, also called Jason Lee, appeared for sentencing in the Auckland District Court.

A company he ran, Evergreen Life Limited, has been sentenced at the same time and ordered to pay $260,000.

Judge Eddie Paul said the prosecution was a significant one because of the amount of doctored honey involved, which he said amounted to some 14 tonnes.

He said Lee's offending went "to the heart of the mānuka honey industry in New Zealand".

It was all done over 16 months.

"What occurred was Evergreen the company and Mr Lee prepared and sold mānuka that it said was high grade, but in fact it was not," Judge Paul said.

"They made it appear to be high grade through the addition of synthetic versions of chemical compounds that would naturally occur in genuine product," he said.

"That has obvious commercial advantage."

Judge Paul said it was obvious the offending was driven by greed, that the trust of consumers was breached.

"Fourteen tonnes of adulterated honey is serious," Judge Paul added.

The Ministry of Primary Industries was alerted through a whistleblower.

Lee, who has escaped jail in his sentencing, was responsible for the day-to-day running of the company which his father was the sole director and shareholder of.

Lee, who opposed being filmed and photographed in court citing his father's ill health, stared down during his sentencing.