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A New Defence for Smugglers?

Import News from the Importers Institute
19 January 2001 - A New Defence for Smugglers?

There may be a new defence against charges of smuggling. If caught, just claim that the rules are too complex.

An importer brings in a shipment of jackets worth $6,500 every month. A duty rate of 19% makes his annual duty bill almost $15,000. However, he would rather pocket that money himself. He finds a duty exemption for "inflatable life jackets". The only problem is that his jackets are neither inflatable nor life jackets. Yet he declares that they are, month after month.

Of course, he could get caught - Customs does examine the odd shipment. If this happens, he will learn that Section 204 of the Customs and Excise Act 1996 says, "Every person commits an offence who makes a declaration or a written statement under this Act that is erroneous in a material particular." The penalties are heavy.

In his defence, the smuggler could quote the example of the Hon Phillida Bunkle, the Customs Minister who, while owning a house in Wellington, declaring her residence to be Wellington for electoral purposes and campaigning at the last election on the basis that she lived in Wellington, signed declarations saying that she did not - and claimed $15,000 tax free out-of-town allowances.

The officials in charge of the trough say that they were right in transferring the money to the Minister's bank account. Do you think that the jacket smuggler would get off as lightly as the Minister in charge of administering the Customs Act?

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