Funny Honey: Chicago Firm in Smuggling Scheme

Says they tried to skirt import laws

U.S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald on Wednesday announced an indictment against 11 German and Chinese executives and six corporations for a scheme to smuggle illegally produced-Chinese honey in to the United States.

The companies are accused of labeling the Chinese honey as coming from other countries to get around paying import fees.  Since 2001, the United States Commerce Department placed anti-dumping duties on honey.  The current tax is $2.06 per net kilogram.

The charges also allege that the honey was tainted with antibotics, though those antibiotics are not believed to have caused any harm.

"There is no allegation and no reason to believe that any of the honey involved in this case had led to any injury or illness," Fitzgerald said Wednesday.

At the heart of the conspiracy, they said, is German-based Alfred L. Wolff.

It allegedly bought low-cost honey from several Chinese suppliers and then shipped it to other countries where it was filtered to "remove pollen and other trace elements that could indicate that the honey originated from China," the 44-count indictment said.

Two executives who worked the Chicago-based Wolff office, Stefanie Giesselbach and Magnus von Buddenbrock, were arrested in May 2008 and cooperated with prosecutors.  In all, 15 people have been charged.

Those charged face multi-year prison sentences and fines up to $250,000 if convicted.

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