Wellington, July 31, 2018
New Plymouth winemakers of Sentry Hill Winery and Sur Le Mur wines were convicted on Friday in the New Plymouth District Court and have been ordered to pay more than $13,500 in reparations and fined $2000 for unlawfully manufacturing and selling wine and defrauding Customs. Sur Le Mur Ltd was also convicted and fined $1500 for the same offences.
Sentry Hill Winery (2006) Ltd was placed into liquidation at the request of Customs in April 2016 after the debt owed from unpaid excise duty totalled more than $280,000.
The sole director and shareholder Stephen Parkes’ powers as a director ceased upon liquidation.
Mr Parkes’ wife Wendy Parkes then incorporated Sur Le Mur Ltd and applied for a Customs-controlled area licence to manufacture alcoholic products at the Sentry Hill Winery.
Customs declined her application on the basis that the area was already licensed to Sentry Hill Winery which was in liquidation.
Enquiries by a Customs Officer later revealed that Sur Le Mur Ltd had sold bulk red wine to retail outlets in New Plymouth despite not having a licence to manufacture or sell the goods.
Unaccounted liquor bottles
Customs conducted a stocktake of Sentry Hill Winery in May 2016 and again in January 2017 and the second stocktake revealed there was bottled liquor which was unaccounted for.
Customs investigations also located documents which recorded the Parkes’ dealings with the unaccounted for goods, which resulted in more than $13,000 excise duty owed to Customs, which was never paid. Mr Parkes had sold the liquor to his wife’s company Sur Le Mur Ltd who then on-sold it to grocery and liquor outlets.
Good lesson to winemakers
Customs Manager Central and Southern Ports Joe Cannon said that this is a good lesson to other New Zealand winemakers about the importance of obtaining a Customs-controlled area licence to manufacture and sell goods and paying excise duty.
“People may think that because they are a small business then they can break the rules, however, Customs takes these matters very seriously, and as seen in the this case, we will prosecute when the law is broken.”