MELBOURNE: A top official of an Australian grain firm has been jailed and the company slapped with a 680,000 dollar fine for shipping a large consignment of chickpeas to India without proper pest treatment.
Woods Grain Pty Ltd was fined and director Thomas Dudley Woods jailed for six months in the Brisbane District Court on Friday.
According to media reports, the fraud was committed during 2007-2009 while shipping 68 consignments of chickpeas which did not meet mandatory Indian fumigation requirements.
Woods was given an 18-month sentence with release after six months under a two-year good behaviour bond. The court heard that the consignments totalling 18,500 tonnes and worth 10 million dollars bound for India was treated with pesticide and the Australian company falsely declared that it was sprayed with methyle bromide as required by Indian laws.
Commonwealth prosecutor Peter Callaghan SC said a fumigating operator gave signed, blank certificates to the company, allowing it to dupe federal officials into believing the chickpeas had been property treated.
The court heard that the scheme was started by another director of the family company, but when Woods became aware he helped cover it up. Judge Brendan Butler said the operation may have given the company a time advantage or a small financial advantage. He said Woods Grain had exposed Australia to criticism and Woods, a well regarded local businessman, had failed his duty as a company director.
"It's truly sad to see a man such as yourself...in a position you find yourself in today," Butler said, adding "I can only assume you did it out of some misguided loyalty to the company and your family."