New Zealand kiwifruit company, Zespri is currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) after the company’s Chinese subsidiary was fined almost $1m, leading to the incarceration of an employee for five years.
The offenses relate to the underpayment of custom duties on kiwifruit imports that occurred between 2008 and 2010 which were a result of a ‘dual invoice’ system for kiwifruit shipments. The system involved issuing one invoice that reflected the true value of the fruit, and second invoice reflecting a lesser amount for custom purposes, Stuff.co.nz reports.
Zespri has stated that dual invoicing was common practice in the fruit industry and that the company was not acting illegally by engaging in it, however the company has since switched to a fixed price arrangement.
The SFO confirmed yesterday that an investigation into the Zespri Group has been launched, however the company stated that it was not yet aware of the investigation.
A spokesperson for the company stated:"Zespri has not been contacted by the SFO and has no details of the scope or substance of an investigation. Zespri will co-operate with any investigation.”
President of the Kiwifruit Growers Association Neil Trebilco said that the association was conducting its own review of the matter, but was surprised to learn of SFO’s involvement.
"I'm surprised the SFO are doing such an inquiry because I haven't seen anything to suggest they should have done something like that," said Trebilco.
“The real concern is that people might say well Zespri must be guilty of something here if the SFO are looking into it and I'd say that's not necessarily the case at all".