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October 15, 2013

California-Based Company Charged with Smuggling Canadian Seal Oil

Humane Society International/Canada

  • According to NOAA, the harp seal oil capsules originated in Canada. Mark Glover/HSI

MONTREAL — UBF Group Inc. has been charged with conspiracy to commit a number of acts related to smuggling Canadian seal oil into the United States. An investigation by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found the California-based company was also allegedly illegally marketing more than 3.4 million seal oil capsules to customers located in the U.S., Canada and Vietnam. Since 1972, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act has prohibited trade in marine mammal products.

HSI Canada Executive Director Rebecca Aldworth said: “The U.S. Market has been closed to seal products for four decades, despite the efforts of some disreputable companies to circumvent the law. We are grateful that NOAA treated this matter seriously and that the US Attorney’s Office has laid these charges against the accused. This case should serve as a warning to other companies that that smuggling seal products into the United States, or any other region that has prohibited seal product trade, is a major offense that carries significant penalties.”

The defendants, who are the husband and wife owner of UBF Group and the company itself, have been charged with buying, selling and transporting seal oil that was imported into the United States. The individuals and company have also been charged with conspiracy to have a Chinese company ship them seal oil caplets falsely labeled as fish oil, having the Chinese company falsify customs entry documents by under-declaring the value of the products, and submitting these false customs entry docs to customs officials. The accused in this case face penalties of up to 60 months in federal prison for each violation, along with a potential seven-figure fine for the company and forfeiture of all property used in or to facilitate these crimes.

The indictment alleges that the smuggling began in or before 2007, and continued until the end of March 2010. At that time, law enforcement officers executed search warrants on UBF Group and seized the contraband.

According to NOAA, the harp seal oil capsules originated in Canada.

Facts

  • Since 2002, more than 2 million seals, aged less than three months of age, have been brutally clubbed and shot to death in the globally-condemned Canadian seal hunt.
  • While the primary product of the Canadian seal slaughter is fur, seal oil is a by-product as the blubber is attached to the skins when they are removed from the carcass.
  • Independent veterinarians have called the slaughter “inherently inhumane” because of the consistent level of suffering documented at the slaughter, including wounded seals left to suffer in agony and conscious pups impaled on metal hooks and cut open.
  • In recent years, the European Union. Mexico, Taiwan, and the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus have all joined the United States in banning trade in some or all seal products.

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Media Contact: Christopher Paré, 514-395-2914/438-402-0643, cpare@hsi.org

Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI/Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International—one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than eleven million members and constituents globally—on the Web at hsicanada.ca.

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