CATCH THE BUZZ
Technicality Halts Case Against Illegal Chinese Honey Importers…for Now.
A federal court blocks U.S. government plan s to sue a German food importer's American subsidiary for allegedly avoiding $80 million in customs duties on illegally imported Chinese honey.
A federal grand jury last year indicted Alfred L. Wolff Inc. and its subsidiaries in the U.S., Germany, China and Hong Kong, charging they dodged the customs duties on honey imported from China between 2002 and 2009.
It was alleged Wolff labeled the honey as originating in other countries to avoid paying anti-dumping duties.
Wolff appointed a limited-authority corporate representative to appear in court to enter a not guilty plea and when it did so, the government served the representative with summonses for each of the foreign defendants.
Wolff moved to quash the summons, saying the method of service did not comply with federal rules of criminal procedure.
Media reports say the government countered that special circumstances necessitated an exception to this rule, but U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve rejected this and granted the motion to quash.
Her judgment says the federal rules require the government to serve each defendant by delivering a copy of the summons to an officer, a managing or general agent, or another agent appointed or legally authorized to receive service of process.
The judge says service on a subsidiary does not constitute service on a corporate parent where separate corporate identities are maintained, even if the subsidiary is wholly owned by the parent.
The court says the government must find another way to serve the foreign defendants in accordance with the U.S. mutual legal assistance treaties with the countries in question.
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