Abady Law Firm, P.C. – Customs and Import/Export Attorney Blog

Learn the Basics of Customs and International Trade Policy and Procedure

Archive for the "Customs" Category

Exporting New and Used Vehicles from the United States to an Overseas Buyer

The question of whether one is permitted to export a vehicle from the United States to a foreign buyer (in China, Dubai, etc) is a tricky one.  Over the last few years there have been cases of federal officials seizing vehicles and cash associated with the business of exporting vehicles. News articles and government press releases of such scenarios have been reported on:

Two California Men Plead Guilty In “Far-Reaching And Elaborate” Automobile Export Scam (April 29, 2013)

U.S. Targets Buyers of China-Bound Luxury Cars (February 11, 2014)

Man accused of identity theft, fraud in car scheme arrested (March 18, 2015)

Selling vehicles for export angers automakers, but is it illegal? (July 21, 2014)

Exporting luxury cars is lucrative, legally questionable (August 6, 2014)

U.S. authorities are cracking down on oversea auto exporters (October 2, 2014)

Investigators pursue luxury car exporters (January 17, 2015)

Inside Stories From the War Between Automakers And Dealers Over Exports (February 12, 2016).

In United States v. Content of Wells Fargo Bank, et al,  the court ordered the federal government to return money and vehicles it seized from an automotive export business that sold luxury vehicles to the overseas market.  The government argued that there were federal wire fraud laws violated by using foreign money to defraud American car dealers into selling them vehicles that were intended to stay in the United States. Specifically, luxury vehicle dealers are prohibited by their manufacturers from selling cars for export.  Dealers have the purchaser sign a contractual agreement stating that the cars are not to be exported. In order the facilitate the purchase of luxury vehicles the automotive export company used “straw buyers” to purchase said vehicles (if the same purchaser walked into the same dealership multiple times to purchase luxury vehicles the dealership may get suspicious and prohibit the sale) and thereafter shipped them overseas.  The court held that the government could not establish probable cause to believe that the funds seized are the “proceeds” of wire or mail fraud.  The court reasoned that the misrepresentation was only a civil matter (not criminal) because the party deceived by a material misrepresentation (dealer) is NOT the same party injured (manufacturer). Therefore, the court ordered the immediate release of seized funds and vehicles.

While this decision may protect one from criminal liability there is still the question of civil liability.  In an article written by Automotive News entitled Dealer scores in suit against illegal exporters over 100 vehicles were purchased and exported overseas without the dealer’s knowledge.  As a result, the dealer violated its franchise agreement (which prohibited the sale of vehicles for export) and was liable to reimburse the manufacturer for incentive money it did not qualify for. Thereafter, the dealer filed suit against the purchasers and a jury found in favor of the dealer under claims of fraud, breach of contract, and intentional misrepresentation or concealment and violation of the RICO act.

Based on these cases, one must be careful in conducting an auto export business.

In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“Customs”) provides a list of regulations on its website regarding the export of vehicles here. One important point is the definition of “used” vehicles for purposes of filings in the Automated Export System (“AES”). For example, you go into a dealership and purchase a vehicle.  You drive it off the lot, is it now considered a “used” vehicle? Further, the distinction between a “new” versus “used” and “titled” versus “untitled” vehicle correlates to the type of documentation needed to be provided to Customs.

With respect to the definition of “used”:

  • Used. “Used” refers to any self-propelled vehicle the equitable or legal title to which has been transferred by a manufacturer, distributor, or dealer to an ultimate purchaser.
  • Ultimate Purchaser. “Ultimate Purchaser” means the first person, other than a dealer purchasing in his capacity as a dealer, who in good faith purchases a self-propelled vehicle for purposes other than resale.

A mistake in the designation of a vehicle as “new” versus “used” in the AES can result in the seizure of said vehicles. Thus, it is vital that one carefully reviews the Customs regulations prior to export.

Resource Information

For more information about this blog post, please contact Abady Law Firm, P.C. and speak with our customs lawyer at (800) 549-5099. Also visit www.customsesq.com to chat with a customs lawyer — who has insight into Exporting Vehicles — about your company’s export situation and to schedule a consultation.  To chat with us, click the bottom right corner tab of our homepage.

Hoverboards On Fire This Holiday Season – Literally

 

Burned hoverboard. Photo: CPSC hoverboard fire

This past holiday season hoverboards have been one of the most popular items this past holiday season.  As a result, we have received numerous phone calls regarding U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP” or “Customs”) intense examinations of these products.  The reason being is that there have been cases where these hoverboards burst into flames due to counterfeit batteries being used to power them. See here http://nypost.com/2015/12/30/hoverboard-bursts-into-flames-inside-a-brooklyn-apartment/. This led to intervention by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”), the federal agency regulating the safety of consumer products nationwide.

Customs and CPSC work closely to ensure the safety of products that are imported in the U.S. Customs is the “enforcer at the border” and enforces not only their own regulations but the regulations of all third party federal agencies.  Here, importers must ensure the quality of these hoverboards before importation. Make sure the factory you purchase from has a licensing agreement with the trademark holder of the battery inside.  If you are dealing with an agent in a foreign country make sure you get a paper trail leading to the trademark holder.  Once these goods arrive at the port of entry there is generally no turning back.  The trademark holder is unlikely to offer any assistance if the batteries are counterfeit and Customs will detain, seize, forfeit and destroy these goods.  Meaning the importer is out the money spent to their supplier for the purchase of the goods and Customs may come after the importer for penalties (if you receive a penalty contact a Customs and International Trade expert immediately).

How can this mistake be avoided?  Make sure you get a full understanding of what you are buying, the components (and packaging) comprising a product are just as important as the product as a whole. A minor mistake will cost you, and seizure will not be remitted because of ignorance.   Further, Customs will have you flagged as a potential violator and you may see an increase is examinations (and delays) at ports of entry.   Thus, if there are any trademarks on the goods, seek documentation supporting their legitimacy.  If you need help with identifying issues or verifying documentation contact an attorney experienced in Customs and International Trade law.

Resource Information

For more information about this blog post, please contact Abady Law Firm, P.C. and speak with our customs attorney at (800) 549-5099. Also visit www.customsesq.com to chat with a customs and international trade attorney —  about your company’s import/export situation and to schedule a consultation.  To chat with us, click the bottom right corner tab of our homepage.

Exporting to Dubai – UAE and CBP’s Fear of Iran

Companies looking to export goods to Dubai need to be aware that it takes proper precaution before they submit the export documents to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP” or “Customs”).  We have dealt with many cases where Customs is suspicious as to the end user of said goods.  Conversations with CBP personnel have indicated that Dubai is a major reexporter of goods to Iran.  As of today’s blog post, the U.S. maintains sanctions against Iran.  See our previous posts on Iran and sanctions here.  As a result, goods may be detained and/or seized because an Office of Foreign Assets and Control (“OFAC”) license is required to be obtained before they can be permitted export to Iran.

Many times the goods are destined for Dubai and are going to stay in Dubai. Due to the cross-border relationship between Dubai and Iran, it is vital that the proper information be provided to Customs prior to questions regarding the final destination of your products.  We have represented companies before Customs in disclosing the right information so that their shipments see clearance for export at ports around the country.

If you intend on exporting products to Dubai or are in the midst of questions from CBP regarding your exports to Dubai contact us immediately.

Resource Information

For more information about this blog post, please contact Abady Law Firm, P.C. and speak with our customs attorney at (800) 549-5099. Also visit www.customsesq.com to chat with a customs and international trade attorney —  about your company’s import/export situation and to schedule a consultation.  To chat with us, click the bottom right corner tab of our homepage.

Global Entry – Expedited Clearance for Travelers Through U.S. Customs

International travelers, do you hate waiting on line in order to clear Customs at airports around the country? Global entry is a program established by  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that expedites clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.  Instead of waiting on those long lines, one is able process their clearance through Customs at Global Entry kiosks where one can scan their passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification, and make a customs declaration.

In order to become accepted under the Global Entry program travelers must be pre-approved.   This includes a full background check and interview.

What are the advantages under the Global Entry program?

Globalentry.gov provides that there is:

  • No processing lines
  • No paperwork
  • Access to expedited entry benefits in other countries
  • Available at major U.S. airports
  • Reduced wait times

Globalentry.gov further provides the following reasons for a DENIAL under the Global Entry program:

  • Provide false or incomplete information on the application;
  • Have a criminal history, have been convicted of any criminal offense or have pending criminal charges or outstanding warrants;
  • Have been found in violation of any customs, immigration or agriculture regulations or laws in any country;
  • Are subjects of an ongoing investigation by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency;
  • Are inadmissible to the United States under immigration regulation, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation;
  • Cannot satisfy CBP of their low-risk status (e.g. CBP has intelligence that indicates that the applicant is not low risk; CBP cannot determine an applicant’s criminal, residence or employment history)

Need help applying for the Global Entry Program?  Were you denied and need assistance filing an appeal? Was your Global Entry status revoked?

Resource Information

For more information about this blog post, please contact Abady Law Firm, P.C. and speak with our customs attorney at (800) 549-5099. Also visit www.customsesq.com to chat with a customs lawyer — who has insight into applying or appealing into the Global Entry Program — and to schedule a consultation.  To chat with us, click the bottom right corner tab of our homepage.

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Currency Seizure: Transporting Cash Through FedEx, UPS, or DHL

Have you ever thought of placing cash inside of an envelope and sending it across the globe?  There are places around the world where one will find strict economic controls on their people or have problems with crime.  As such, sending money to friends and family becomes a dangerous and/or difficult process.  For example, if your friend was in dire need of money and the only way of getting it to him was to place cash in a box and ship it to a specific location, would you? If you decide to do so, be careful.

If Customs and Border Protection (Customs)/Homeland Security seizes your cash when transported through Express Consignments (i.e. FedEx, UPS, DHL) you will likely find that the alleged violations are of 19 U.S.C. §§ 1481, 1484, and 19 C.F.R. Part 128. Further, Customs will reason that you misdescribed currency/monetary instruments in express consignment shipments. If this occurs you will be facing administrative forfeiture proceedings.  A seizure notice will be issued to the sender and recipient of the package. On that notice you will be told where the cash was seized, the date of seizure, the reason for the seizure, and a list of options to contest the forfeiture.  It is best to consult an attorney experienced in Customs matters at that point as a poorly planned strategy may end up leaving your cash forfeited to the United States government.

Land Rover Defender Destroyed By U.S. Customs – How Can This Be Prevented?

I have represented many importers looking to import vehicles from around the world into the United States.  For those doing so, one must ensure that the vehicle is in compliance with the laws and regulations of the Department of Transportation. Otherwise, entry into the United States will be prevented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If a violation is found, the importer will face the possibility of a seizure and severe penalties for failing to comply.  If you find yourself in such a situation best to contact an attorney experienced in handling such matters to minimize such consequences and achieve the best possible solution under the circumstances.

You do not want to find your vehicle victim to the following:  http://autos.yahoo.com/video/u-customs-crush-land-rover-144127210.html

Customs Attorney: Confidential Treatment of Shipping Manifests

How can I prevent information about my imports from being available to the public?

As some of you may or may not be aware pursuant to the privacy statute, 19 C.F.R. § 103.31 (d), the public is allowed to collect manifest data (e.g., bills of lading) at every port of entry. The information is limited to vessel manifests (air, rail, and truck manifests will not be available to the general public in any form).

Websites such as panjiva.com and importgenius.com collect and publish names of importers/suppliers/manufacturers from vessel manifest data. This can be troubling for some because entities such as your competitors are able to access information related to the sourcing and/or manufacturing of your products. However, an importer/shipper may make a request for confidentiality. The confidential protection is valid for 2 years, after which time a renewal is needed. Send in renewal requests 60 days prior to the expiration of the 2 year confidentiality period.

If you need assistance in requesting such confidentiality contact a customs attorney who can help.

You may call us at 347-512-9007 for more information on your international trade and customs issues.

Customs Attorney: Commercial Invoice and Footwear

In general, a commercial invoice should provide enough information for a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer to determine if the goods being imported are admissible, and if so, what the correct rate of duty should be applicable based on its Harmonized Tariff Number.

Customs does not provide a specific format for a commercial invoice, however they do provide the elements that should be on an invoice in 19 C.F.R. 141.85.

At a minimum, an invoice should:

1. Describe the item clearly

2. Give the quantity

3. State the value (either price paid, or estimated value based on other considerations.) Give both the value in foreign currency and U.S. dollars

4. Country of Origin (where the item was made)

5. Where it was purchased

6. Name of the business or person selling the merchandise

7. Location of the business or person selling the merchandise

8. Name and address of business or person buying the merchandise, and if different from the importer

9. The U.S. address of the person or business the goods are being shipped to

In addition, Footwear is unique and Customs requires more detail; these additional requirements may be viewed at 19 C.F.R. 141.89.  The additional invoice one must include with all their shipments is the “Interim Footwear Invoice.” A sample of a interim footwear invoice can be found here.

Liquidated Damages by Customs and Border Protection

Liquidated Damages are predetermined civil penalties assessed against importers who have breached the terms of Customs bond.  These liquidated damages claims arise when an importer  fails to adhere to the Customs regulations and/or requests made by Customs on behalf of other government agencies (e.g. FDA). Specifically, a majority of the claims for liquidated damages stem from issues related to failure to redeliver goods, or improper  classification, valuation, or marking.

Petitions for relief from liquidated damages must be filed within sixty (60) days from the date of mailing to the bond principal, the notice of claim for liquidated damages, or penalty secured by a bond.  The degree at which Customs will grant mitigation is dependent on Customs mitigation guidelines and the facts and circumstances of the case.

As always when faced with a liquidated damages claim it is best to consult with a customs attorney about your options when preparing a petition to file with Customs.

Resource Information

For more information about this blog post, please contact Abady Law Firm, P.C. and speak with our customs attorney at (800) 549-5099. Also visit www.customsesq.com to chat with an import export attorney — who has insight into liquidated damages claims — about your company’s import or export situation and to schedule a consultation.  To chat with us, click the bottom right corner tab of our homepage.

Don’t forget to LIKE US on Facebook for firm news, import/export news and legal updates.  

Customs Attorney: Customs and Border Protection: Notice of Detention

Customs is given broad authority to inspect shipments entering into the country.  When Customs questions the admissibility of goods into the United States, Customs has the authority to detain the shipment until satisfactory information is provided to enable release.  Customs has five (5) business days from the date on which the merchandise is presented for examination to decide whether or not to detain the merchandise or to allow its release.  If Customs decides to detain a shipment, they must provide the importer with a formal Notice of Detention within five (5) days of the determination to detain the shipment.  During the detention phase the importer has the opportunity to resolve any issues as to admissibility in order to avoid a rejection or seizure.

A Notice of Detention must provide the following information under the law:

  • That the goods have been placed under detention;
  • The precise reason for their detention;
  • The estimated length of time that they will be detained;
  • A description of any inquiries being conducted or tests to be made (legally, test results also must be promptly provided to the importer) regarding the goods; and
  • Any additional information that may assist in the prompt disposition of the detention.

Customs has thirty (30) days to render a decision regarding the detained shipment, unless a longer time period has been granted.  If no final decision is reached at the end of this thirty day period, the merchandise is automatically considered excluded for purposes of protest. If the goods are seized, the importer will receive a notice of seizure. It will provide the reasons for the seizure and options available to the importer.

Resource Information

For more information about this blog post, please contact Abady Law Firm, P.C. and speak with our customs attorney at (800) 549-5099. Also visit www.customsesq.com to chat with a customs lawyer — who has insight into CBP Detentions — about your company’s import situation and to schedule a consultation.  To chat with us, click the bottom right corner tab of our homepage.