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Customs not selling unsafe imported vehicles

Customs not selling unsafe imported vehicles

Customs Minister Rick Barker has refuted allegations by Act transport spokesperson Deborah Coddington that the New Zealand Customs Service is selling "unsafe" motor vehicles to "unsuspecting" buyers.

"Ms Coddington's suggestion that Customs has sold more than 1,000 'unsafe' vehicles to 'unsuspecting New Zealanders' is a misinterpretation of the facts.

"It is illegal to import a motor vehicle into this country with a wound-back odometer and since 1999 Customs has seized 1,391 vehicles from importers who attempted to break that law."

Under the Customs and Excise Act, any importers attempting to bring in prohibited goods may have those shipments seized by Customs and the importer runs the risk of forfeiture.

Importers could appeal seizures of any goods, but at the completion of any appeal Mr Barker said Customs was within its rights to decide on how such goods should be disposed of.

"The fact is that vehicles are forfeit when importers operate outside the law. There is no question of compensating anyone who breaks that law, it's as simple as that.

"Any failure on Customs part to seize these vehicles would open the floodgates to widespread vehicle fraud in New Zealand.

"Customs is not in the business of selling vehicles, but it has to dispose of those seized somehow.

"It came down to either destroying them, selling them for parts or auctioning them, provided they complied fully with Land Transport Safety Authority requirements. I do not support the destruction of these vehicles.

"Full disclosure of the history of these imports is passed on prior to auction and the information is also clearly marked on the LTSA's vehicle registration papers.

"The wording reads: 'the vehicle's odometer does not record the correct distance the vehicle has travelled'. Seized and on-sold vehicles are also tagged with the message 'unreliable odometer' on the LTSA's motochek online database.

"Since 2000, approximately 1,011 vehicles seized by Customs have been sold at auction. After Customs costs, including storage, are recovered, the remainder is returned to the Crown. Customs does not make a profit from the sales.

"The history of these vehicles is fully documented and available on the LTSA's registration papers to anyone who chooses to check them.

"Does Ms Coddington seriously believe that a dealer who breaks the law by trying to import such vehicles would go to the same trouble?"

"If Customs was to wreck every vehicle it seized, it would be a senseless waste of resources and energy, particularly when they still meet the LTSA's safety guidelines.

"To scrap such vehicles before they become un-roadworthy is stupid. The real issue here is to ensure buyers are aware of a vehicle's history and as far as I am concerned that information is transparent and readily available to anyone who wants to know," Mr Barker said.

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