Chinese honey is cheap and the US had been a major importer. But in 2001, in the wake of a US government investigation that found domestic honey producers being harmed by significant price disparities between Chinese and American honey, the US levied an anti-dumping duty of roughly $1.20 per pound (454 gm) on Chinese honey. This tariff, its imposition implying that this honey was being sold below its real cost of production, was intended to level the playing field for American beekeepers who could not compete with imported honey selling in America at half their cost.

For companies like ALW … this was a big business setback. To evade the duty, some of them started getting shipments via third countries, with the honey’s point-of-origin relabelled accordingly. After all, no tariff was due on honey from India, Malaysia, Mongolia or Russia.

According to a 44-count indictment of the firm, over 2004-06, it laundered over 2 million pounds — 900 tonnes — of Chinese honey through India, evading nearly $80 million in duties.

For more, see: Honey Laundering