Import

From Chaos to Compliance: A Guide for Importers

Many mistake the ease of importing to mean there is no liability or obligation on the part of the importer. Whether your company is new to importing, or has been in the business for years, CBP expects importers to use “reasonable care” to ensure compliance with relevant rules and regulations. Importers are at risk of being subject to enforcement actions by CBP if they do not comply with the reasonable care standard when importing goods into the U.S. This article provides an overview of CBP’s expectations of an importer and practical advice on what you must have in your import compliance plan.

How Did We Get Here?

December 8th, 1993, the Dow Jones reached a record high of 3734.53, Janet Jackson’s “Again” remained number one on the charts, and President Bill Clinton signed the Customs Modernization Act (Mod Act). The Mod Act altered the import compliance landscape by making it the responsibility of the importer to classify items, determine their value, etc. The law also imposed a legal obligation to use “reasonable care” in doing so, or else Customs could (and would) impose penalties.

What Exactly is “Reasonable Care”?

Reasonable care requires importers to conduct themselves as a reasonable importer would under the circumstance with respect to importing goods into the United States.

Reasonable care requires importers to:

  • Meet the standard to enter, classify and determine the value of imported goods
  • Provide other information necessary to aid CBP in properly assessing duties and collecting accurate statistics
  • Determine whether other applicable legal standards and […]
By |2024-04-19T15:30:55-04:00April 19, 2024|Import, Pre-compliance|0 Comments

The Arena of EAPA: Transshipping, Pencils, and Evading Duties

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) investigates allegations of dumping or unfair foreign subsidies, but they also have the authority to investigate potential violations of any imposed Anti-Dumping or Countervailing Duties (AD/CVD) under the Enforce and Protect Act (EAPA) of 2015.

Customs describes EAPA as a “multi-party, transparent, administrative proceeding where parties can both participate in and learn the outcome of the investigation. It also maintains due process for parties to the investigation by providing an option for them to request administrative and judicial reviews of CBP’s determination as to evasion.” Self-assertions of transparency and due process aside, many have found EAPA cases to be highly secretive and not always fair.

Frequently, an EAPA case involves an allegation that Chinese goods are allegedly transshipped through another country (or only subject to minor processing) to avoid paying AD/CVD duties. Since AD/CVD duties are applicable based upon the commodities country of origin, nefarious companies can ship goods from China to for example, Vietnam, India, Mexico, Taiwan, Malaysia, or some other country, and claim that these goods do not originate from China after all. Importers, in good faith, will declare that their imports are not subject to AD/CVD duties because they are not aware of the true origin of the goods. Such importers might not be liable for penalties if their belief was in good faith and based on facts, but such importers would still be subject to massive duties. Thus, contrary to popular option, good/honest importers may also find themselves the recipient of […]

Ford Motor Company Settles Claims Relating to Under-Valued Vehicles for $365M

Ford Motor Company has agreed to pay $365 million for allegedly misclassifying and understating the value of hundreds of thousands of vehicles.

According to the Department of Justice, Ford engaged in a scheme to avoid higher duties by misclassifying cargo vans. Between 2009 and 2013, the company imported Transit Connect cargo vans into the United States but presented them to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with temporary seats and other features to make them appear to be passenger vehicles. The seats were never intended to carry passengers and Ford removed them as part of post-importation processing. The inclusion of the seats allowed Ford to avoid paying the 25% duty rate for cargo vehicles and instead they paid a duty rate of just 2.5%.

This case dates back to February 2012 when the Port of Baltimore advised Ford it was initiating an investigation into Ford’s classification practices. (Typically, prior to investigating an entity, CBP sends a request for information first. For more information on how this process typically begins read “Now, More than Ever, Be Wary of and Responsive to a CBP Form 28!”).

In 2013 Customs determined that the vans were improperly classified and liquidated the vehicles at the 25% duty rate. Ford protested, and Customs denied the protest. Ford then filed a complaint with the U.S. Court of International Trade (CIT). The CIT agreed with Ford, finding that Ford engaged in legitimate tariff engineering. The government appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit where […]

By |2024-03-15T14:49:39-04:00March 15, 2024|Import, penalty|0 Comments

Clothing Wholesaler Executive Avoids Paying Millions in Duties – Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison

Mohamed Daoud Ghacham, a 40-year-old executive from California has been sentenced to 48-months in prison for customs fraud. Ghacham, who was at the helm of a Paramount-based clothing wholesale company, engaged in a deceitful scheme that allowed his business to sidestep paying millions in customs duties on imported garments.

United States District Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong handed down the sentence, which also includes a restitution payment of $6,390,781.

The fraudulent operation involved importing clothing from China and presenting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with a fraudulent second invoice with a lowered value. At Ghacham’s direction, Chinese suppliers would prepare two invoices for orders – a true invoice with the actual price paid and a fraudulent invoice with an understated price. Ghacham submitted the false invoices to CBP, allowing them to avoid millions of dollars in duties for over a decade.

Ghacham also faced charges related to conspiring to engage in transactions with a known narcotics trafficker.

The sentencing of Ghacham and his company concludes a comprehensive investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and CBP, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Export Enforcement, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and IRS Criminal Investigation.

This case underscores the U.S. government’s unwavering commitment to enforcing its customs laws and the severe consequences for those who choose to circumvent them.

Interested in learning more about CBP enforcement? Check out our upcoming webinar on the False Claims Act (FCA). We will discuss damages and criminal liability for making false claims to the government, whistleblower […]

By |2024-03-15T14:25:27-04:00March 15, 2024|Import, penalty|0 Comments

ICYMI: U.S. & Chinese Companies Fined $2.5 Million for Underpaying Customs Duties, Whistleblowers to Receive $500,000

Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas announced that a Dallas-based importer, two individuals, and two Chinese companies agreed to pay $2.5 million to resolve allegations that they failed to pay customs duties on imports.

Underpaying Through Duplicate Invoices

ADCO, a Dallas-based importer of industrial products, the company owner Raymond E. Davis, customs broker Calvin Chang, and Chinese companies Xiamen Atlantis MFC Co., Ltd. and Xiamen Taft Medical Co., Ltd conspired to underreport the value of goods they were importing.

The scheme involved falsifying invoices with low values for goods ADCO was importing from China. The company used a separate set of invoices that contained the correct value of goods to ensure that ADCO paid its suppliers the actual value of the goods.

In investigating the scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and CBP’s Consumer Products and Mass Merchandising Center of Excellence and Expertise reviewed over 1,000 import entry lines.

Qui Tam Lawsuit

The settlement with the government resolved a “qui tam” lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act (FCA). A qui tam lawsuit is one that is brought by a private citizen or company against a defendant or defendants that owe money to the government.

When a qui tam lawsuit is successful, the party that initiated the case—called a “relator”—is entitled to a substantial monetary reward, ranging between 15% and 30% of the amount recovered for the government.  A qui tam lawsuit also engages the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in the case, and typically results in the opening of […]

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