Don St Pierre Jr, manager of ASC Fine Wines in Shanghai, has been released following a three-week detention by Chinese customs.
ASC and other wine importers have been subjected to a China-wide inspection by customs focussing on potential discrepancies between the declared value and ‘real value’ of imported wines.
St Pierre and his colleague Carrie Xuan were held – along with the legal representatives of other wine importers – from 11 March to 8 April in a detention centre. St Pierre was released on April 8, free to return to work, along with all other ASC staff.
‘If your company is being investigated and the total amount in contention exceeds the Renminbi (Chinese currency) equivalent of €25,000 [£20,000, US$40,000] then customs has the legal right to detain the person legally responsible for the company, and that is me,’ St Pierre told decanter.com.
‘This is the way things are done in China,’ he added.
Customs ultimately fined ASC €220,000 (£180,000, US$350,000). St Pierre said this was the maximum possible discrepancy in ASC’s declaration value for all the wines it has imported over the past two years.
He said this represents less than 1% of the total value of wines ASC has imported over the past year.
‘From what we understand the investigation was launched because of the rapid increase in the volume of imported wines over the past one to two years,’ said St Pierre. ‘Customs was, and is, checking the valuation method companies used to declare imported wine.
St Pierre said he strongly supports the government’s efforts to ensure all importers are declaring all their imported wine at the real value.
ASC, which has several offices throughout China, is the country’s largest importer and distributor of quality wine from around the world, including all Bordeaux first growths and fine wines from California and Australia.
In China, the duty on wine imports is 14%, VAT is 17% and Consumption Tax is 10%.
Written by Maggie Rosen