Heavy fine for black market middleman

July 20, 2016 | By More

Court House-07A Christchurch judge has sent an expensive signal to people who get involved with black market seafood.

He imposed a $15,000 fine, four months of community detention, and 100 hours of community work on former restaurateur and present courier driver, Derek Sutton Yee.

Christchurch District Court Judge Tom Gilbert said people who became involved needed to know they would face substantial fines and “deprivation of their liberty in one form or another”.

They would not be allowed to view the penalties as “some form of licensing”, he said.

Yee, 57, will also have forfeit his phone and van which were used in the offending.

He had admitted dealing in black market paua and rock lobster.

Defence counsel Kerry Cook said it was accepted that Yee had offended against the community, and that community work would allow him to give something back to the community. He had fallen on hard times when his restaurant was closed after the Christchurch earthquakes, which had led to him being involved as “a middleman” in the offending.

After the restaurant closed, he became a courier driver and also runs a Chinese food van on Saturday nights.

Judge Gilbert said Yee’s transactions involved a high degree of commercialism involving substantial quantities of fish – 177 kg of paua and 147.5kg of crayfish. He had made a profit of about $12,000.

Black market dealing significantly compromised New Zealand’s ability to manage its fisheries stock to achieve the maximum sustainable yield.

“It costs New Zealand millions of dollars every year. The black market limits the potential growth of the New Zealand rock lobster and paua industries.

“In addition there can be health and safety concerns where food is not handled and processed to approved levels,” said the judge. The offending also impinged on the rights of legitimate commercial and recreational fishers.

A second offender, restaurateur Qui Sheng Ying, 47, was also due to be sentenced but the case had to be delayed to September 30.

The Probation Service had conducted its pre-sentence interview without a Chinese interpreter and Mr Cook said Ying had not understood the question when he had declined his approval for a sentence of community detention.

Judge Gilbert delayed the sentencing to get the community detention assessment done again.

“If he declines that, he’s only going one place,” said Judge Gilbert, indicating that imprisonment would be imposed.

The Fisheries Act offences carry maximum penalties of imprisonment for five years or fines of $500,000.

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