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Illegal Honey Trading Leaves A Sticky Mess

Alan Harman


   There’s going to be a free-for-all involving the murky world of Asian honey shipments at a trial later this year involving a dodgy Michigan processor, a wily Chinese honey shipper, 200 loads of Indonesian honey, claimed U.S. government interference and a lost $4 million.

   Groeb Farms of Springville, MI, is suing for the $4 million it claims it lost when China Industrial Manufacturing Group failed to deliver on the contract for the Indonesian honey in 2010.

   The Daily Telegram newspaper in Adrian MI reports the Chinese company is claiming U.S. government interference made the honey deal go bad.

   A lawyer for Groeb Farms told the Lenawee County Circuit Court that perjury should disqualify the import company from presenting claims a customs bond kept the honey from being delivered.

   This after a defense witness who claimed knowledge of a customs bond problem turned out to have no first-hand knowledge when he was questioned under oath.

   An affidavit signed by Cherry Paniman, a businessman involved in importing honey, was the foundation of China Industrial’s defense in the case.

   Seabolt said after a year-long chase around half the world, Paniman finally admitted under questioning that he had no personal knowledge of an import bond preventing the Indonesian honey from being delivered to Groeb Farms.

   “He has perjured himself,” Groeb Farms attorney Scott Seabolt is quoted as telling the court. “Let’s not split any hairs. He perjured himself in his affidavit.”

   As a result, Seabolt wanted the court to block China Industrial from presenting evidence of customs delays at the trial due to begin in May.

   As well, Seabolt said China Industrial waited until the day before the deadline for attorneys to complete research in the case, to hand over a list of eight new witnesses in an intentional effort to prevent him from preparing for trial.

   “What I do have a problem with is being blindsided and sandbagged,” Seabolt told the court.

   Defense attorney Morley Witus said Paniman was confused about the legal definition of personal knowledge. China Industrial then located other witnesses of the customs bond put on honey intended for Groeb Farms, he said, including two customs agents.

   Witus says in a written brief it was illegal honey trading by companies such as Groeb Farms that caused the U.S. government to impose enormous import bonds in 2010.

   Companies were knowingly purchasing transshipped Chinese honey and circumventing the anti-dumping duties applicable to Chinese honey, he stated.

   Groeb Farms was fined $2 million in a settlement earlier this year with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

   Witus asked the court to dismiss charges of intentional fraud added to Groeb’s contract complaint.

   The newspaper reports Judge Margaret M.S. Noe rejected all motions.

   “I feel an overwhelming obligation to allow a jury to see and hear everything they should see and hear,” Noe is quoted as saying.

   She ordered China Industrial to pay the costs of having its new witnesses testify at depositions before the trial and also ordered that Paniman be present and available to testify.


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