A man was charged a $30,000 fine for attempting to smuggle thousands of kilograms of cheese through the Canadian border.
Haissam Azaar, 50, was caught with about 3,990 kg of cheese at the Thousand Islands border crossing in Landsdowne, Ont., on Jan. 10, 2018, according to a news release published by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
When CBSA officials referred Azaar for a secondary examination, they found eight skids of undeclared cheeses. He was arrested and charged for failing to mark imported goods under section 159 of the Customs Act.
According to the Customs Act, all goods that enter Canada must be declared to border officials. If someone fails to declare imported goods, their items could be seized and they could be prosecuted and fined up to $50,000 and spend up to six months in jail.
Azaar pleaded guilty and was sentenced at the court in Brockville, Ont., on May 9, 2019. He was ordered to pay a $30,000 fine, which he must pay back within five years, with a minimum payment of $1,000 a year.
“Seizures like this serve as a reminder of the vital role CBSA officers play in preventing risks to Canada’s food safety as well as contributing to Canada’s economic security,” CBSA St. Lawrence District Director Darren Frank said in the release.
According to CBSA statistics, in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the agency seized more than 1,200 kg of cannabis products, over 1,400 kg of cocaine, and 696 firearms. They also seized almost $33 million of undeclared currency.
Canada requires a permit and charges pricey tariffs for importers who want to import cheese into Canada — individuals are allowed to bring up to $20 worth of dairy products into the country — so people do try and cut corners.
In 2016, an importer from Burnaby, B.C., was fined $25,000 for illegally importing 18,725 kg of cheese over a five-year period, evading $461,000 in duties.
In the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), NAFTA’s successor, Canada has agreed to allow more imports of U.S. dairy into the country, a move which worried Canadian dairy farmers.