Oenophiles, beware. The cost of your favourite tipple may go up very soon. A report by AP has uncovered that several wine importer executives are being detained while Shanghai customs officials conduct an “audit” of wine importers, including Don St Pierre Jr, of Shanghai-based ASC Fine Wines.
Yin Zong, a spokesman for the Shanghai Customs office, was quoted thus:
“We are cracking down on some wine importing companies that are suspected of falsifying prices and the case has been handed over to the Customs Smuggling Prevention Department… The case is under investigation.”
The AP story revealed that the exponential growth of wine consumption in China has not been matched by similar rises in customs revenues due to under-reporting of the value of imported products. However, the AP reporter appeared unable to find other wine importers affected by the crackdown.
Don St. Pierre, Sr (father of the detained and founder of the company) revealed that:
ASC and customs officials had agreed on a”minuscule” $US250,000 ($275,000) discrepancy in ASC’s imports over three years, equal to 1.1 per cent of the $US22 million the company paid in import duties during that time.
His son, he said, “has not been charged with any crime and has not been arrested” and was “co-operating fully” with authorities.
His parting shot in the story offers food for thought:
“Stepping back, I’ve been doing business here for 22 years now and have gone through lots of these kinds of things and survived… China is not for the weak-hearted.”