Archive for the ‘Agricultural Exports’ Category


Oct

28

U.S. Indicts Exporter for Failing to Meet Halal Meat Standards


Posted by at 7:59 pm on October 28, 2014
Category: Agricultural ExportsCriminal Penalties

Midamar Halal Pizza via http://www.midamarhalal.com/Product/Pizza/Halal-Pizza/166/Halal-Beef-Pepperoni-Pizza-12in-bake-Rise.aspx [Fair Use]Who knew that the Islamic Religious Police had an office at Main Justice? You might justifiably wonder that reading this indictment in which an Iowa man, William B. Aossey Jr., is accused of violating federal law by exporting meat from a slaughterhouse not certified as halal to Indonesia and Malaysia, both Muslim countries where the importation of non-Halal meat is forbidden by law. Aossey is the owner of Midamar Corporation, a leading producer and exporter of Halal meat and food products.

Actually, the prosecutors get to this odd result by a familiar route, namely accusing the defendant of making false statements to the federal government in connection with the export. We saw this in the warm chicken case which we reported on back in 2012. In order to encourage U.S. exports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agrees to certify to foreign governments that agricultural products exported from the United States comply with the importing country’s requirements. As part of that process, the exporter fills out a USDA Food Safety Inspection Service Form 9060-6, which is an application for the required export certificate. In that application, just above the signature line, is the following sentence:

Under penalty of law, I certify that the product covered by this application for export meets the inspection requirements for the country of destination.

If the importing country requires that the animal be slaughtered by a Muslim in a particular manner while invoking the name of the deity and that has not happened, then the statement on the Form 9060-6 is false and a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 611(b)(5), which prohibits false statements in applications for export certificates. Violation of that provision is made criminal by 21 U.S.C. § 676.  The indictment alleges that the defendant’s company represented in the export certificate that the meat came from a Halal-certified slaughterhouse when in fact it came from another, non-Halal slaughterhouse.

It is not quite clear why the charge was under 21 U.S.C.  § 611(b)(5), which provides for a maximum jail term of three years, rather than under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, which penalizes false statements to federal agencies and provides for a maximum jail term of five years. Perhaps it was because the defendant was recently appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to the position of Vice Chair of the Iowa District Export Council, a fact oddly omitted from the indictment. I suppose that’s worth cutting the guy just a little slack.

UPDATE: We received the following communication from Midamar:

In your article “U.S. Indicts Exporter for Failing to Meet Halal Meat Standards” in your Export Law Blog you state “You might justifiably wonder that reading this indictment in which an Iowa man, William B. Aossey Jr., is accused of violating federal law by exporting non-Halal meat to Indonesia and Malaysia…” Midamar is a company that has built its brand on halal integrity and would never falsely label any product as Halal if it was not Halal. Bill Aossey is not accused of exporting non halal meat to SE Asian countries in violation of federal law. Please see Midamar Statement http://www.midamar.com/News/20141025/49/Midamar-Statement-on-Indictment-of-Founder-Bill-Aossey.aspx and also see: http://youtu.be/sAT7LJKEYsU for some history on Bill Aossey and Midamar.

The indictment alleges that Aossey certified that meat came from a slaughterhouse that was Halal-certified when in fact, it is alleged, it came from another slaughterhouse that was not Halal-certified. The point being made by Midamar’s statement above appears to be that the meat was still Halal even if it came from a slaughterhouse that was not Halal-certified. We have slightly amended the sentence in question to read that Mr. Aossey is accused of “of violating federal law by exporting meat from a slaughterhouse not certified as halal to Indonesia and Malaysia.”

Permalink Comments (3)

Bookmark and Share



Oct

30

ICE Nails Canadians for Exporting Cheese from United States


Posted by at 6:37 pm on October 30, 2012
Category: Agricultural ExportsCriminal PenaltiesICE

cheeseA reader sent me this press release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

One officer and a former officer with the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRP), and an associate are in custody in Canada Thursday following an investigation into a cheese smuggling scheme. …

The arrests were announced by James Spero, special agent in charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Buffalo, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the NRP. …

Scott Heron, 39, Casey Langelaan, 48, and Bernie Pollino, 44, all of whom reside in Fort Erie, Ontario, have been charged for smuggling goods, evasion of duties and other related charges under Canadian laws. …

The network involved the purchasing of cases of cheese and other food items in the United States and transporting them into Canada without declaring the items or paying duty. Once the products arrived in the country, they were sorted and prepared for distribution to a variety of restaurants in southern Ontario.

Who knew that it was ICE’s job to help Canada put U.S. cheese makers out of business with punitive tariffs on American cheese?

Permalink Comments (3)

Bookmark and Share



May

8

Dead Chickens By Sea: A Hard Warming Story


Posted by at 5:30 pm on May 8, 2012
Category: Agricultural Exports

Gulf Coast Cold StorageUsually criminal export defendants are in the dock for exports of night vision, stun guns, or high-tech chemical processing equipment. Today we have criminal defendants who were indicted for exporting insufficiently chilled chickens from Pascagoula, Mississippi to Russia, proving, I suppose, that even exporting chickens can be a dangerous business these days.

The indictment describes an alleged conspiracy by the three defendants, all employees at Gulf Coast Cold Storage, to remove dressed chicken carcasses from blast freezers before they had reached certain temperatures required by the trade agreement between the U.S. and Russia. In other instances, the defendants were alleged to have put chicken that reached higher than permissible temperatures back into the blast freezers.

Why, you must be asking, is the U.S. concerned about exports of warm chickens to Russia? Can they be weaponized into chicken wings of mass destruction? Will the warm chickens be served, pathogens and all, to Russian political prisoners? No, the warm chickens became criminal export violations through the wondrous intervention of the federal prosecutor’s jack-of-all-trades and catch-all statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, a/k/a the Martha Stewart law, which can transform almost any activity otherwise legal under U.S. law into a federal crime. Just as Martha Stewart went to jail for lying about perfectly legal activities, so the Pascagoula Three risk jail time for an allegedly untrue statement on an export certificate with respect to processing techniques that would not themselves have violated U.S. law.

When required by importing countries, as is the case with Russia for poultry exports, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue an export certificate attesting that the product complies with the importing country’s requirements. The exporter fills out an application for that certificate on FSIS Form 9060-6 which has a certification at the end that “the product covered by this application for export meets the inspection requirements for the country of destination.” This was the alleged false statement that served as the basis of the 18 U.S.C. § 1001 charge.

In order to sustain a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendants knew that their statements were false. United States v. Yermian, 708 F.2d 365 (9th Cir. 1983). Here that means that the prosecution must show that three guys working in a blast freezer in Mississippi were familiar with Russian law on chicken processing. That seems to be a heavy burden, although the indictment suggests that one or more of the defendants told others to report false chicken temperatures, which I suppose will be argued as proof that they knew the temperature requirements of Russian law.

And the moral of the story? It’s this: there is no product so benign or inconsequential that someone can’t figure out how to send you to jail for exporting it.

Permalink Comments Off

Bookmark and Share