May 1, 2009
“Days after caviar purveyor Max Moghaddam and his company Bemka Corp. were sentenced Feb. 25 in U.S. District Court for exporting American paddlefish roe without permits, he filed an appeal and is seeking a new trial.
Moghaddam, who maintains his innocence in a prepared statement sent to Gourmet News, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, fined $100,000 and ordered to serve three years probation. Bemka, which operates under the name Bemka House of Caviar and Fine Food, was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $200,000 and four years probation. About $122,000 worth of American paddlefish roe was seized by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Moghaddam and his company Bemka Corp. of Fort Lauderdale, were found guilty by a federal jury Dec. 4, 2008, for their involvement in conspiracy, false labeling of export shipments and the illegal export of the internationally protected fish roe during the period from July 2005 through April 2007.
Since 1992, American paddlefish has been listed for protection under the international treaty known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. More than 170 countries cooperate in the enforcement of the provisions of CITES.
It is illegal to export the American paddlefish roe without CITES permits, and while Moghaddam and Bemka had obtained CITES permits in the past, there was not one on file for the shipment in question, noted Brian Roland, special agent with U.S. Fish and Wildlife office of law enforcement.
According to the USFWS, the American paddlefish was falsely described on shipping invoices and customs documents as bowfin roe.
In a March 3 statement sent to Gourmet News, Moghaddam maintains there was a mistake on the part of the export department. In the July 2008 issue of Gourmet News, Moghaddam said the charges stem from an April 2007 sample shipment to the European Seafood Expo. Admitting the paddlefish roe was accidentally mislabeled as bowfin roe, he said he knows every container is checked, and that anyone could tell the difference between the light to dark gray paddlefish roe and the black bowfin roe.
Roland said “the evidence presented at trial showed that the paddlefish roe Bemka received had the paddlefish label removed and bowfin labels had been applied.”
Moghaddam plead not guilty at the four-day trial that started Dec. 1, 2008.”
Article taken from Gourmetnews.com (registration necessary!)
Read older blogpost about the ‘Bemka-trial’