New Zealand court fines plant smuggler

An air passenger has been fined $2250 for following his cousin's advice to smuggle plant cuttings and seeds into New Zealand.

Deo Rajan Gounder appeared in the Manukau District Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty of trying to bring 4 plants and 11 seeds into Auckland Airport in July last year.

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 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," says Craig Hughes, MPI Passenger Manager.

"It was a reckless action that deserved a hefty fine. In the past we have detected pests such as crazy ants, nematodes, taro mite and scale insects on plants from Fiji. We have also found several fungal diseases.

"All of these organisms have the potential to damage New Zealand's environment and economy.

"The case highlights there are expensive consequences for travellers who deliberately ignore our strict biosecurity rules."

All plants legally imported into New Zealand must at least spend 3 months in quarantine and be treated with insecticide.

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