Four US seafood importers found guilty of illegally importing catfish

Published on
September 13, 2022
A photo of catfish illegally imported into the U.S.

A federal judge found four seafood importers guilty in a conspiracy to illegally smuggle prohibited catfish into the United States in July 2022.

The original complaint, filed in February 2021, charged Mahmud Chowdhury, Shakil Ahmed, Belayet Hussain, and Frizz Ahammad with conspiracy to smuggle banned catfish through the Southern District of New York.

As part of the investigation, special agents and investigators removed an estimated 43,800 pounds of illegal catfish from the seafood supply chain, according to NOAA Fisheries.

“This case demonstrates the importance of collaboration across U.S. government partners to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) Director James Landon said. “This should serve as a reminder that those who break the rules will be held accountable – protecting honest fishermen and good actors.”

During the investigation, OLE and United States Customers and Border Patrol agents examined several of the defendants’ shipment containers, collected fish samples, and identified two illegal species of catfish through its forensic laboratory, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The defendants falsely labeled the illegal catfish species as rohu and carp – species that are legally allowed to be imported, according to the DOJ. Federal agents then embargoed the shipments and CBP officials safely destroyed all of the illegally imported catfish. 

Chowdhury was sentenced to three years’ probation, a USD 25,000 (EUR 25,000) fine, and 300 hours of community service. Hussain, Shakil Ahmed, and Ahammad were each sentenced to two years’ probation, USD 5,000 (EUR 5,000) fines, and 200 hours of community service. The four defendants were also sentenced to a USD 354,000 (EUR 354,000) joint asset forfeiture. 

Photo courtesy of NOAA

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