WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Hilary Swank (search), the Oscar-winning star of "Million Dollar Baby," (search) is going toe-to-toe with New Zealand legal authorities over a $150 fine customs officials slapped on her for bringing fruit into the country, local media reported Sunday.
Swank, who won a best-actress Academy Award for her role as a boxer in the acclaimed Clint Eastwood-directed movie, was fined 200 New Zealand dollars (U.S. $150) on Jan. 15 for failing to declare an apple and an orange in her luggage when she arrived at Auckland International Airport, The Sunday Star-Times newspaper said in a front-page story.
She has instructed lawyers to appear in the northern city's Manukau District Court next week to contest the fine, the newspaper reported.
Thousands of visitors arriving in New Zealand each year are hit with on-the-spot fines for not declaring products like fruit which are subject to import bans. Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry spokesman William Minchin told the Star-Times that hundreds of people contest the fine.
Like neighboring Australia, New Zealand is largely free of pests which cause billions of dollars in damage to crops and livestock in other parts of the world. The country has extremely strict quarantine guidelines to keep such pests from entering the country.
"It's a pretty standard practice to issue an instant fine for a biosecurity risk," Minchin told the newspaper. "The only thing that's unusual in this case is that it's Hilary Swank and she's famous."
The newspaper quoted Swank's Los Angeles-based publicist, Troy Nankin, as saying, "Oh, that was the apple in the purse incident." Nankin reportedly declined further comment.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry officials were unavailable for comment Sunday.
Swank also won a best-actress Oscar for the 1999 movie "Boys Don't Cry" (search).