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Woman faces prosecution over entry declaration

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March 2, 2001 


WELLINGTON-(AP) - A woman who returned to New Zealand from foot-and-mouth disease-infested Britain without telling customs staff she had visited a Scottish farm could be prosecuted, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said Friday.

The woman, Jenny Wood, faces prosecution for making a false declaration on a quarantine questionnaire all people entering New Zealand have to fill out. She faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

Among other things, arrivals are asked if they have visited a farm in the last 30 days and if they are carrying any clothing or equipment used on a farm.

Lying on a quarantine declaration can result in a fine of up to 100,000 New Zealand dollars (dlrs 44,000) or a jail term of up to five years.

Agriculture officials were checking for other cases, a departmental spokeswoman told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Wood's case came to light after opposition lawmaker Eric Roy lambasted the government for "appalling" slackness in its efforts to prevent foot-and-mouth disease reaching New Zealand. The country's farms are free of the disease.

Roy said Wood had been in Scotland and England five days after the foot and mouth outbreak in the United Kingdom and had been on a farm in Aberdeenshire - one of the infected areas.

It was appalling she was not questioned and that no bag or footwear check was carried out, Roy said.

"This sort of dishonesty is more than simply irresponsible, it is criminal when there is so much at stake," Roy said.

"The livelihoods of all New Zealanders are dependent on a strong and healthy agricultural sector," he said in a statement.

An Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman said that once Wood had been named, they checked her quarantine declaration and found she had misled quarantine officers about the farm visit.

"It's pretty hard to make a mistake over `BÍs' and `No' on the form," the spokeswoman said on customary understanding of anonymity.

A decision on whether to prosecute Wood will be made early next week.

Wood was being questioned by agriculture ministry investigators Friday and was not immediately reachable for comment.

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