Board member: "We were stupid enough to accept. We should have said no.”
Swedish meat supplier fined for faking export papers: ‘We applied every year, but the agency was weak at negotiating’
The company said it applied for export certificates every year for ten years, but could not get full approval for export to Taiwan from the Swedish National Food Agency (NFA).
Karsten Davidsson, a purchase and sales manager for the company and member of the board, told FoodNavigator it was frustration with authorities that were “weak at negotiating” with other countries that drove the firm to fraud. The company's official plant vet made the documents in question, he said.
“He was quite annoyed with the authorities that we couldn’t get approval. So he said he could guarantee us [the documents]. We were stupid enough to accept. We should have said no.”
The company will pay 400,000 kronor (€44,118) in corporate fines, while its president will pay 12,000 kronor (€1,323) from his own pocket. The case was settled out of court since both the company and its representatives admitted fault.
Official stamps in unofficial hands
The NFA said the meat supplier had unlawfully used NFA senior official stamps 13 times between November 2011 and April 2014 in connection with meat exports to Taiwan. The out-of-date stamps were used to suggest consultation between the NFA and the Taiwanese government. Suspicion was raised when the Taiwan authority noticed that the certificate was in a strange font.
Karin Cerenius, head of control in West Bengal for the NFA, said the agency was taking the issue very seriously, and added it could be damaging for the credibility of Swedish exports from other companies.
The agency already had procedures in place to ensure official current and old stamps did not fall into the hands of outsiders. However, in light of this event it would be reevaluating how it handled this, as well as keeping a particular eye on this company in future controls.
‘We didn’t believe it would take ten years’
Davidsson said the certification issue was around the loading of meats in cold storage, rather than export approval which the products had.
He said the NFA was unable to negotiate this for the firm, claiming the agency was under resourced and “very week at negotiating” with countries outside of Europe like Taiwan.
He said after five years of applying every year it had decided to fake this part of the documentation and maintain minor trade contact with firms in Taiwan until the full confirmation came through, upon which the company would be able to upscale its presence in the region.
“But we didn’t believe it would take ten years.”
After accepting the vet’s offer, who no longer worked for the company, it had become increasingly difficult to back out of this strategy, he said.
He said the Taiwan contract lost as a result of this action was “very tiny” and of “low importance” in terms of how much it bought in for the firm. However, previous plans for expansion would no longer be an option for the company, nor would a continuation of trade with the country, he said.
Outside of Europe, the company also exported to Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Africa, for which he said all its papers were in official order.