It has been one and a half years since Pakistani authorities culled 21,000 sheep that a local food company had imported from Australia under dubious circumstances.
While findings of the multiple probes ordered by the government have yet to see the light of day, an Australian news organisation has finally come up with documentary evidence that suggests a senior official of the Australian exporter falsified export documents to gain permission to ship the consignment to Pakistan.
According to a report by Australian news organisation ABC, each export shipment needs a Certificate of Australian Origin – which is issued in Perth by the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce – bearing a series of stamps and signatures to prove its authenticity.
However, the stamp found on the Certificate of Australian Origin in this case doesn’t have a date below it. Furthermore, it shows a ‘written number’ instead of the regular stamp. An official of the chamber of commerce also confirmed to ABC correspondent that the certificate in question was ‘never authorised’.
PK Meat and Food purchased a consignment of 21,000 sheep from Australian exporter Wellard Rural Exports after Bahrain turned it down, claiming the animals suffered from the scabby mouth disease.
The shipment later arrived in Karachi, where authorities concerned resorted to immediate culling of the animals on the importer’s farm situated on the outskirts of Karachi. Meanwhile, different government veterinary labs issued contradictory reports about the wellness of the imported animals.
This led the Sindh High Court (SHC) to order a halt to the culling while UK-based Pirbright Institute conducted a test on a random sample of sheep. Although the UK lab subsequently certified that the sheep were ‘fit for human consumption’ and ‘disease-free,’ the authorities culled all animals and buried them on the property of the importer.
According to the ABC news report, a no-objections certificate issued by the Pakistani government, listing health requirements for the shipment, was also tampered with.
“A copy of the same certificate required to be lodged with the Australian department had a key phrase – ‘if for breeding’ – inserted. The sheep weren’t for breeding, they were for slaughter. The effect of this amendment was that the exporter had no need to prove it had met all of Pakistan’s health requirements,” reporter Matt Peacock says in the TV report.
The news report, which includes comments from Wellard CEO Mauro Balzarini, blames the falsification of documents on one Garry Robinson, who served as the company’s Middle East manager at the time.
Robinson allegedly sent an email – which has been obtained by the ABC reporter and can be viewed on the news organisation’s website – that refers to “... a copy of the certificate that has had magic done to it.”
It also says, “... we do not want anybody to compare the magic with the original.”
Moreover, Robinson wrote in a separate email that as many as 601 sheep were ‘missing’ and that his colleagues should fudge the figure in order to avoid a government probe.
“We’ll need to add the 601 heads discrepancy to slaughter figures so there are not 601 heads missing,” he wrote in the email, whose scanned version is available on ABC website.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, PK Livestock and Meat Executive Director Saqib Butt said he had nothing to do with any alleged falsification in export documents by the Australian company. “I was in touch with the CEO of Wellard. I never came across anybody by the name of Robinson,” Butt said.
The Express Tribune contacted Robinson through professional networking website LinkedIn. His response to the questions about the authenticity of the emails was awaited until the filing of this report.
The former Wellard employee declined to speak to ABC.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2014.
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