NZKGI demands answers over Chinese Zespri agent probe -

NZKGI demands answers over Chinese Zespri agent probe

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NZKGI demands answers over Chinese Zespri agent probe

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) has called on marketer Zespri to give more information about Chinese imprisoned agent Liu Xiongjie.

In a letter addressed to Zespri CEO Lain Jager, NZKGI chief executive Mike Chapman asked what has happened to Liu since the arrest, whether the company itself was under investigation or if the issue has affected sales.

Chapman showed concern about whether money from Chinese sales had been paid and returned to New Zealand.

"We were advised at the Forum Meeting that the final programmes for China were being reviewed and that a decision would be made by week 46 on how much fruit is to be finally shipped to China," he said.

"As suggested to you and your staff, Zespri needs to keep growers informed of developments as they occur."

The situation with Liu and Zespri in China

The news of the arrest broke when New Zealand media picked up on a CCTV story, covering a seizure due to alleged unpaid duties on 30,000 metric tons (MT) of kiwifruit since 2007.

Zespri has distanced itself from the issue due to Liu's independence as an import agent, but it is understood he moved significant volumes of its fruit in China through his company Shanghai Neuhof Trading.

Sources who have requested their identities be protected, told that Liu alleged Zespri gave him two seperate documents with different prices for buyers and customs officials.

A Zespri spokesperson said the company had no knowledge of these allegations, and denied using different pricing structures for customs and standard business operations in China.

The company claimed only one director has been on the Chinese mainland since the arrest in August but he was not there on Zespri business.

In September, newspaper Opitiki News reported the director concerned - Tony de Farias - cut short a trip to China with New Zealand delegates when news of the customs fraud investigation came out.

"Due to the uncertainty surrounding the investigation at that point Tony made the decision to return to New Zealand," Zespri senior communications adviser David Courtney was quoted as saying.

"The choice to come home was Tony’s, there was no request from any authority for him to return home."

The Zespri spokesperson told there were still company staff in China.

"With regards to Zespri's operation in Mainland China the Beijing and Shanghai offices are still open, so yes Zespri staff are still present in mainland China," he said.

"As far as Zespri is concerned there is no ban on travel to China for staff, it remains business as usual."

When asked whether any Zespri staff would be taking part in the judicial process in China, the spokesperson said this was not on the cards.

"We have not been requested to attend any hearings or judicial proceedings by China Customs," he said.

Related story: Zespri denies kiwifruit seize claims

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