A Burnaby-based food importer has been charged with smuggling cheese into Canada.
In court documents, the Canada Border Services Agency alleges Manuel De Oliveira either under declared, or failed to declare, quantities on 29 separate cheese shipments.
According to a search warrant, the investigation began in 2008 when a border agent with a sharp nose detected something was off in a shipment of grapes and grape juice.
A closer examination turned up three pallets, wrapped in black plastic, that were loaded with 2,200 kilograms of cheese in 235 boxes. The shipment was allegedly bound for Burnaby's Beira Mar Importers, which is owned by De Oliveira.
A year later, the CBSA intercepted a shipment of two varieties of Portuguese cheese — a shipment that appeared to have been arranged to evade duty charges of $67,000.
Under federal regulations, cheese importers are issued quotas that see cheese taxed at about $0.03 per kilogram, but anything over the quota is slapped with a 245.5 per cent tariff.
Canada Border Services Agency officials have said anyone caught smuggling large shipments of cheese into Canada would be in violation of the Customs Act for failing to declare, and pay duties on, the controlled goods.
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High prices and import tariffs are part of the reason some pizzeria owners in Ontario were turning to contraband cheese, smuggled into Canada from the U.S.
In September, CBC News learned three men, including a police officer from the Niagara Falls area, were accused of jamming cases of "brick" cheese — used as a common pizza topping — into their vehicles to smuggle across the border and resell to Canadian pizzerias and restaurants.
The B.C. Dairy Association says this is the first they've heard of similar allegations in B.C.
De Oliveira declined comment.