Archives For USCBP

AEO group

The following article appeared on Maritime Executive’s webpage titled ‘Can C-TPAT be fixed?‘ authored by Stephen L. Caldwell (2017-07-18). The assessment reveals that Customs-Trade partnerships require continuous review and enhancement to retain their appeal and relevance – a significant challenge for customs and border authorities primarily focussed on compliance with the law. I have appended hyperlinks to the critic’s articles at the bottom of this post.

As the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism celebrates its fifteenth anniversary, it faces stagnant membership, software train wrecks, questionable assertions of benefits and a much- needed retooling to stay current.

The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a voluntary security program started in the aftermath of 9/11. Member companies sign up and agree to maintain strong supply chain security. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staff then validate members’ security practices to ensure they meet minimum criteria. Members are then eligible for benefits such as reduced likelihood that CBP will examine their shipments.

C-TPAT currently has about 11,500 members including importers, consolidators, sea carriers, port terminals and foreign manufacturers. Membership is segregated into three “Tiers” with Tier I representing companies that sign up, Tier II representing validated members, and Tier III representing companies with the highest demonstrated level of security.

The program grew rapidly in the beginning, reaching 1,500 members by 2002, 3,000 by 2003, 7,000 by 2004 and 10,000 by 2012. Given this growth, Congress wanted to make sure it was more than just a “sign- up sheet” and asked its watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), to monitor the program.

GAO’s July 2003 report found that, after companies signed up but before any validation process was completed, CBP went ahead and provided benefits by reducing their scores in its risk algorithm. By May 2003, for example, there were 3,355 members receiving benefits but only 15 had been validated. It took a couple of years to work down the backlog.

Even then, GAO’s March 2005 report found the validation process was not rigorous enough to ensure that a company’s security practices were reliable, accurate and effective. Its 2008 report found that CBP still faced challenges in verifying that C-TPAT members met minimum security criteria. It also found that CPB’s records management system did not allow managers to determine whether C-TPAT members complied with program requirements.

Midlife Crisis

Michael Laden, head of customs compliance firm Trade Innovations in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, has been helping industry clients with C-TPAT since 2005. Laden has been a licensed customs broker since 1981 and served as Director of Global Trade Services at Target Corporation prior to founding his own firm. He believes that C-TPAT is having a midlife crisis: “The stagnation of membership levels in the 10,000-12,000 range is an indication that industry has lost its appetite for C-TPAT.” He cites a problematic history of revolving short-term leadership as part of the problem.

Laden says the program reached its nadir with the August 2015 release of the much-anticipated Portal 2.0 software, designed to further automate the validation process. “The release was rushed into service with limited capabilities and minimal pre-testing,” he explains. “It was a complete train wreck. The data from the previous version just disappeared. In some cases, not only did the data disappear but the company disappeared too.”

The problems with Portal 2.0 were documented in GAO’s most recent report of February 2017, which found that Portal 2.0 incorrectly altered C-TPAT members’ certifications or security profiles, impairing the ability of C-TPAT specialists to identify and complete required security validations. Portal 2.0 problems also prevented C-TPAT members from accessing their own data and responding to validation reports.

Since C-TPAT was presented as a partnership with CBP benefiting from its knowledge of member companies’ security practices and companies benefiting from reduced scrutiny of their shipments, CBP in 2012 developed a software “Dashboard” to track such benefits. It used the Dashboard in its Program Benefits Reference Guide to assert that entries filed by C-TPAT members were less likely to undergo a security examination than those filed by non-members. Tier III members, for example, were nine times less likely to be examined, and Tier II members 3.5 times less likely.

However, the February 2017 GAO analysis found that C-TPAT members’ shipments did not consistently experience lower examinations, hold rates or processing times compared to non-member shipments. When GAO shared its preliminary analysis with C-TPAT officials, they acknowledged that they had never completed system verification, acceptance-testing, or checks on the data in the Dashboard. GAO’s conclusion was that the data was unreliable going back to the Dashboard’s introduction in 2012, and CBP to this day remains unable to determine the benefits of C-TPAT membership.

Industry Finds Its Own Solutions  

While industry was anxious for definitive information on membership benefits, it decided to find its own solutions to some of the costs. One key cost involves security audits of the supply chain, particularly in foreign countries. Shippers and importers got together and created the Supplier Compliance Audit Network (SCAN) to address costs, “audit fatigue,” inconsistent reporting and varying compliance requirements.

Companies pay a sliding fee to become part of SCAN, where they can commission audits and get access to completed audits, which could obviate the need for a new audit of a particular supplier. In 2016, SCAN completed more than 3,379 audits in 51 countries. Its board of directors represents some of the largest importers in the U.S., and its audits are conducted by proven service providers such as Bureau Veritas and business standards company BSI.

Dan Purtell, Senior Vice President of 30 BSI’s Supply Chain Solutions Group, says, “SCAN members clearly see the benefit of the C-TPAT program. These companies are the ‘who’s who’ of the Tier III C-TPAT community and truly are the supply chain security thought-leaders within the private sector. Member companies compete on the shelf but unite to secure trade, mitigate supply chain risk, and identify and correct security deficiencies.”

Purtell notes that “More than 15,000 such deficiencies have been remedied by SCAN since its inception just two years ago. No other association has done more to address global supply chain exposures.”

Next Steps

Despite problems, there are signs of improvement according to Trade Innovations’ Laden, starting with the decision by the last CBP Commissioner to make the Director of C-TPAT a more permanent position. “This should add continuity to the leadership of the program,” he explains, “allowing it to reach its true potential.” Laden also praises the new Director, Elizabeth Schmelzinger, for her openness to listen to industry.

“We’re retooling the program so that it stays current,” says Schmelzinger. “There are a lot of factors that have changed over the years. We want to make sure the minimum standards are still relevant.” CBP had enlisted its industry-based Commercial Operations Advisory Committee (COAC) to help it validate those minimum standards and develop C-TPAT best practices with the results to be announced at COAC’s March 1 meeting in Washington, DC. However, it was announced at the meeting that the results had been delayed to “make sure they get it right.”

When asked whether the intent of revisiting the minimum standards was to increase membership, Schmelzinger responded: “C-TPAT’s standards remain high. It’s not all about joining the program. We also suspend companies and remove them from the program. So, there is a constant churn in membership.”

She also described the evolving roles of C-TPAT and CBP’s newer Trusted Trader program, noting that “C-TPAT was foundational to any Trusted Trader status.” In other words, the first element of a Trusted Trader program was to ensure security. Then the elements of compliance with rules and regulations would be taken into consideration.

Ultimately, C-TPAT and Trusted Trader would transition into a global safety net whereby low-risk importers and exporters would have their goods expedited through customs processes in both the U.S. and its trading partners.

AEOs and Mutual Recognition

In international parlance, security partnership arrangements like C-TPAT are called Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) programs. The U.N. reported that, as of 2016, some 79 countries had established AEO programs and an additional 16 planned to launch such programs in the near future. The E.U., consisting of 28 countries, has the largest program, and its Union Customs Code of 2013 aims to, among other things, reinforce swifter customs procedures for compliant AEOs.

Many countries with AEO programs, including the U.S. with its C-TPAT, have signed “mutual recognition agreements” whereby two countries’ customs administrations agree to recognize the AEO authorization issued under the other’s program and provide reciprocal benefits to companies. As of May 2016, some 40 bilateral agreements had been concluded with 30 more being negotiated. According to the U.N., these bilateral agreements will form the basis for multilateral agreements. To date, the U.S. has signed 11 agreements with, among others, the E.U., Canada, Mexico, Japan and Korea.

C-TPAT Director Schmelzinger adds that “We are also restructuring the program to include exports so that it is more in line with the structure of other countries’ AEO programs. As part of our agreements with countries that have AEO programs, those countries will honor a commitment to our exporters who are low- risk. This will help U.S. exporters establish a foothold in those markets.”

One Step at a Time

Michael Laden is more skeptical of mutual recognition, calling it a “noble gesture” but adding there will be little enthusiasm from industry. Most of his clients are importers and will not get any benefit from the new export component.

Regarding exporters, he says that “Since CBP so rarely examines exports, the usual benefit offered by C-TPAT membership does not exist for that part of industry.” In Laden’s view, “Let’s fix C-TPAT before we move on to harmonize customs security and compliance throughout the world.”    Source: Maritime-Executive

Recommended reading –

 

Advertisements

atlas_ByZaYFusl

The notices detailing President Donald Trump’s promise to build a “big, attractive wall” were made public late Friday (3 April 2017) by Customs and Border Protection. The request from the Customs and Border Protection Department called for a 30-ft-high wall, but said that plans to build a wall minimum 18 ft in height may be acceptable.

“The north side of wall (i.e. USA facing side) shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment”, reads the RFP. In the documents, CBP says that the side facing the US must also be “aesthetically pleasing” in “color, anti-climb texture etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment”.

And that’s before a new Trump budget, which came out Thursday, includes $2.6 billion over two years to begin construction of the wall. The government is asking for a 9-meter-high concrete barrier, extending 2 meters underground, built to be “physically imposing” and capable of resisting nearly any attack, “by sledgehammer, vehicle jack, pickaxe, chisel, battery-operated impact tools, battery-operated cutting tools [or] oxy/acetylene torch”.

Earlier this week Mexican lawmakers increased pressure on Mexican construction firms tempted to help build deeply reviled wall.

The proposal document asks contractors for 30-foot-long prototypes and mock-ups of 10 feet by 10 feet. Although Trump made it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign to get the Mexican government tol pay for the wall, expectations are low that the U.S.’s southern neighbor will give money while it’s being built or afterwards.

The specifications leave almost all of the design work to interested bidders, who now have about two weeks to develop and submit their plans, known as proposals. Trump called for the wall to stop illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico and to cut off drug-smuggling routes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said in January that the wall would cost between $12 billion and $15 billion, though other estimates have put the price tag as high $25 billion.

There was some misplaced optimism that Donald Trump would immediately jettison all of his inane campaign promises upon taking office; that the threat of a wall at the Mexican border would be quietly tabled for its obvious insanity.

Proponents of a wall make two questionable assumptions: First, that there will be a continued north flow of refugees. Friday’s release did not address the overall cost of the wall. The city of Berkeley, California, said last week it would refuse to do business with any company that’s part of the border wall. The cost of about 1,000 miles of wall could cost $21.6 billion between now and 2020. Published on Aliveforfootbal website

USCBPThe US government is proposing making social media accounts part of the visa screening process for entry into the country.

US Customs and Border Protection’s proposed change would add a line on both the online and paper forms of the visa application form that visitors to the US must fill out if they do not have a visa and are planning on staying for up to 90 days.

The following question would be added to both the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (Esta) and I-94W forms: “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”

The information will be optional, for now, but the proposed change published by the US Federal Register states that “collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide Department of Homeland Security (DHS) greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

The proposal is currently under consultation, with US government taking comments until 22 August.

The change forms part of the plan by the US DHS to scrutinise social media activity of visa applicants and those wishing to enter the country, following the San Bernardino killings in California, in which social media profiles formed part of the investigations along with an iPhone 5C.

Current DHS pilot programmes are being kept under wraps but are said to scan a limited amount of social media posts.

The pilot programmes currently used by DHS do not sweep up all social media posts, though government officials have kept details of the programmes closely held, as they do not want to reveal the precise process they use to try and identify potential threats.

It’s unclear if or how the DHS would verify information written on a form before hitting border control, leaving the possibility of false information being put down, and while the information may be optional, it will likely be difficult to discern what is and isn’t required on the form.

The US government approves around 10m visa applications a year and had 77.5 million foreign visitors in 2015. Collecting social media accounts for all visitors could produce one of the largest government-controlled databases of its kind almost overnight. Source: Customstoday

Know the FactsU.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske formally rolled out the “Know the Facts” campaign today. The campaign, launched on July 20 in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, encourages those considering attempts to illegally enter the U.S., to “Know the Facts” and avoid embarking on the dangerous trek north only to be returned to their country.

“This campaign is designed to educate would-be travelers in Central America and Mexico about the realities of the journey north human smugglers have no regard for human life,” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “It is critical that they are aware of the facts behind U.S. immigration policies before risking their lives. There are no ‘permisos.’”

The campaign is designed to increase awareness of U.S. immigration policies and enhanced enforcement on the U.S. border, clearly and simply stating the facts behind U.S. immigration policies. Source: USCBP

South African Customs has introduced non- intrusive inspection (NII) capability at the Port of Cape Town. The recent completion of an impressive relocatable scanner facility within the port precinct will now afford state of the art inspection services for customs targeted consignments for inspection. This is the third X-Ray scanner installed and operated by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).

In March 2008, a mobile scanner was implemented at Durban Container Terminal. More recently, a relocatable X-Ray Scanner was implemented adjacent to the container terminal in Durban to allow for improved capacity and efficiency.

The new facility in Cape Town not only extends customs risk and enforcement capability in the use of such technology but acts as a deterrent against any possible threat posed by international cargoes entering or leaving the country’s ports of entry.

In addition to the new x-ray inspection hardware, SARS has developed bespoke support to allow scanned images to be reviewed remotely – away from the port area – affording customs increased flexibility, allowing image analysis experts elsewhere in the country to provide almost real-time analysis and support for the inspection team. The approach also meets SARS differentiated inspection case methodology which ensures that case finalization and cargo release does not rest with a single customs official.

Remote screening analysis is a practice that has already been pioneered in Europe with great effectiveness in recent years.

The benefit of non-intrusive inspection (NII) allows customs to ‘see whats inside’ the container, vehicle or tanker without having to break the seal. All of this can be done in a few minutes. It forms part of Customs overall approach to minimise the time taken to conduct a customs intervention and latent cost, damage and theft which plague conventional physical inspection of cargoes.

The new inspection site also enables SARS to increase its participation and effectiveness in the US Container Security Initiative (CSI) which was launched in Durban, December 2003. Under the CSI Agreement, SARS officials together with US Customs & Border Protection Agency (USCBP) officials – co-located at the Port of Durban – analyze and mitigate risks relating to any containerised cargo destined to ports in the United States.

Credit to Indresan Reddy (Customs Business Systems) for the photographs.

Related documents

US Customs CSI Inspection in the Port of Durban, South Africa

US Customs CSI Inspection in the Port of Durban, South Africa

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has not assessed risks at select foreign ports with U.S.-bound shipments since 2005, part of a string of failures that has left key ports without a CBP presence, the Government Accountability Office says. (Hmm, never mind the impact caused to Customs administration in the host countries……)

In examining CBP’s Container Security Initiative program, GAO found that the agency developed a model for ranking additional seaports according to risk in 2009, but never implemented it because of budget cuts, according to the report.

GAO applied that risk model to 2012 cargo shipment data and found that the CSI program had no presence at about half the ports CSP found high risk. Meanwhile, 20 percent of existing CSI program ports were at lower-risk locations, according to the findings (.pdf).

Although GAO acknowledged host countries are not always willing to accommodate a CSI presence, and that removal of a CSI presence can negatively affect diplomatic relations, auditors said periodic assessments of cargo shipped from foreign ports could help CBP better guard against terror-related shipments.

Although there have been no known incidents of cargo containers being used to transport WMD, the maritime supply chain remains vulnerable to attacks. We recognize that it may not be possible to include all of the higher-risk ports in CSI because CSI requires the cooperation of sovereign foreign governments.

To better ensure the effectiveness of the CSI program, GAO recommends that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to periodically assess the supply chain security risks from all foreign ports that ship cargo to the United States and use the results of these risk assessments to (1) inform any future expansion of CSI to additional locations and (2) determine whether changes need to be made to existing CSI ports and make adjustments as appropriate and feasible.

Such assessments “would help ensure that CBP is allocating its resources to provide the greatest possible coverage of high-risk cargo to best mitigate the risk of importing weapons of mass destruction or other terrorist contraband into the United States through the maritime supply chain,” GAO said.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurred with the recommendation and said CBP would complete its first assessment by Aug. 12, 2014. To access or download the GAO Report on CSI, Click Here! Source: US Government Accounting Office

Foreign Ports That CBP Coordinates with Regarding Maritime Container Shipment Examinations, as of July 2013

Foreign Ports That CBP Coordinates with Regarding Maritime Container Shipment Examinations, as of July 2013 (Table: GAO)

 

Port of Savannah (Picture: Customsnow.cm)

Port of Savannah (Picture: Customsnow.cm)

While US shippers dependent on some federal agencies to clear cargo are seeing delays at U.S. ports of entry, Savannah’s port has so far dodged that bullet.

Shipments requiring paperwork from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture — all of which face severe staff reductions because of the shutdown — have been delayed up to several hours, according to Marianne Rowden, president and CEO of the American Association of Exporters and Importers.

But U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the primary organization working the Port of Savannah, is among the federal agencies whose mission is considered “essential” and will largely remain intact.

CBP says the shutdown will only furlough about 6,000 out of the 58,000 agency employees. Many offices and port operations will continue functioning as usual.

But the shutdown has resulted in far fewer resources at the EPA, FDA and USDA to process certifications and other documents needed to clear some cargo, Rowden said, adding that shippers of food, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, radiological products and environmentally sensitive items should be ready for slower Customs clearance.

The partial shutdown affects the information technology-intensive shipping industry more than just on the Customs clearance side. Filings and data releases from agencies, including the Federal Maritime Commission and the International Trade Commission, have stopped.

The FMC, for example, isn’t accepting a variety of filings, nor is it accepting or acting on complaints and requests for dispute resolution. Source: Savannahnow.com

isfU.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that on July 9, 2013, it will begin full enforcement of Importer Security Filing (ISF or 10+2), and will start issuing liquidated damages against ISF importers and carriers for ISF non-compliance.

According to the CBP release, “in order to achieve the most compliance with the least disruption to the trade and to domestic port operations, it has been applying a “measured and commonsense approach” to Importer Security Filing (ISF or 10+2) enforcement.

The Importer Security Filing (ISF) system—also referred to as the “10+2” data elements—requires both importers and carriers to transmit certain information to CBP regarding inbound ocean cargo 24 hours prior to lading that cargo at foreign ports. These rules are intended to satisfy certain requirements under the Security Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act of 2006 and the Trade Act of 2002, as amended by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002.

Under the ISF, the following 10 data elements are required from the importer:

  1. Manufacturer (or supplier) name and address
  2. Seller (or owner) name and address
  3. Buyer (or owner) name and address
  4. Ship-to name and address
  5. Container stuffing location
  6. Consolidator (stuffer) name and address
  7. Importer of record number/foreign trade zone applicant identification number
  8. Consignee number(s)
  9. Country of origin
  10. Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule number

From the carrier, 2 data elements are required:

  1. Vessel stow plan
  2. Container status messages

Source: CBP.gov

Customs LawThe following article and its ensuing piece of legislation would seem to suggest that current Customs’ automated risk management is not doing its job, or at least is not as successful as authorities would often have one believe. Will this legislation signal a return to good old-fashioned ‘manual’ customs investigative work based on human intelligence? What the Congressman appears to overlook is that it is the US importers who are liable for correct clearance of foreign supplied goods. If CTPAT (and any other AEO scheme for that matter) have any worth, then surely the USCBP would look at de-accrediting US importers who fall foul of its import compliance levels? For many, the question remains – how successful (or even relevant) are the post 9/11 Customs Security measures? Besides creating significant expense budgets for Customs administrations, lucrative business opportunities for scientists, technology vendors, standards bodies, and of course consulting opportunities for the hundreds of audit firms and donor agencies – are the benefits, cost-savings and efficiencies in our current era of “Security” that visible? For many traders, all of this has been accepted as little more than the cost of doing and remaining in business. Period!

Congressman Dan Lipinski introduced legislation that will help American manufacturers grow their businesses and add jobs by cracking down on foreign companies that illegally avoid paying millions of dollars in customs duties. The Customs Training Enhancement Act (click on hyperlink to view the Bill) will facilitate the sharing of information between the private sector and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, enabling the government to do a better job of identifying schemes that cheat American taxpayers by importing foreign goods without paying duties.

The bill, which was folded into Democratic and Republican versions of more comprehensive Customs legislation in the previous Congress, further advances the goal of levelling the playing field so American businesses have a fairer shot against their foreign competitors.

“Blatant cheating by foreign firms has become more widespread at a time when American employers and workers are already at a serious disadvantage. This is not only bad for American business, but it hurts taxpayers by robbing the federal government of taxes it is rightfully owed,” Rep. Lipinski said. “The Customs Training Enhancement Act offers a common-sense approach by allowing impacted industries to  provide our Customs agents the critical intelligence they need to spot the cheaters.”

Since 2001, importers and exporters of goods into the United States have avoided paying $600 million in duties, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which estimates that 90 percent of all transhipped or mislabelled items originated in China. Foreign companies have avoided duties by misclassifying and undervaluing products or by shipping goods from one country to another on their way to the United States in order to disguise the country of origin.

Under Rep. Lipinski’s bill, Customs and Border Protection would be required to seek out companies and trade groups that have information that can identify misrepresented shipments. That information, in turn, would be shared directly from these industry experts to Customs agents working on the front lines.

The Customs Training Enhancement Act is modelled on a successful program forged between the steel industry and Customs and Border Protection in which company and industry officials have taught Customs agents how to spot products that have been deliberately mislabelled.

“The steel industry has shown us a public-private partnership that saves taxpayers millions of dollars while costing the federal government very few, if any, resources,” Lipinski said. “We need to expand this program and fight back against the lying and cheating by foreign companies that are hurting American taxpayers, businesses, and workers. The Customs Training Enhancement Act is an important first step.” Source: www.lipinski.house.gov

 

The article below has been doing the rounds over various social media the last few days. The ‘standout’ issue for me is the fact that such an alleged crime occurred in the USA. With the focus of the customs world nowadays so much on the anti-terror campaign, could it be that one of the single biggest enforcement agencies in the world is not as sharp on traditional customs fraud activities? With the boundless focus on ‘safety and security’ it often seems as though the traditional customs crimes have given way to ‘globally networked syndicates’ using every means of technology to by-pass sovereign authorities. Yet, when you read the brief below, it all boils down to the human factor. To what extent the outcome of this case will attest to the Customs and Border Protection Agency’s risk management capability and moreover the extent to which such campaigns as CT-PAT really give the agency the edge in better ‘knowing’ its customers remains to be seen. A successful border agency must still do the basic things right, as dated as they may seem in the modern world. This case therefore proves how important it is for any national customs and border management agencies to invest in customs-skills training with lesser emphasis on the technology side of things. It is so unfortunate that most countries see Customs Capacity Building as an investment in technology. At this rate with no investment in customs technique, who is going to be able to properly interpret risk indicators if all the agency employs are statisticians and university post-graduates?

SAN DIEGO, CA – A complaint charging eight individuals and three corporations with operating a ring that illegally imported hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign goods into the United States though the Long Beach Port-of-Entry and evaded millions of dollars in import taxes was unsealed today, announced United States Attorney for the Southern District of California Laura E. Duffy.

According to the complaint, the defendants’ scheme focused on purchasing large, commercial quantities of foreign-made goods and importing them without paying import taxes or A Customs duties. As alleged in the charging documents, wholesalers in the United States would procure commercial shipments of, among other things, Chinese-made apparel and Indian-made cigarettes, and arrange for them to be shipped by ocean container to the Port of Long Beach, California. Before the goods entered   States, the defendants generated paperwork and database entries indicating that the goods were not intended to enter the commerce of the United States, but instead would be transshipped “in-bond” to another country, such as Mexico.

As noted in the complaint, this in-bond process is a routine feature of international trade. Goods that travel in-bond through the territory of the United States do not formally enter the commerce of the United States, and so are not subject to Customs duties.By claiming that the goods would be transshipped in-bond to another country, the defendants falsely represented that no Customs duties applied.

According to the complaint, instead of completing the in-bond transshipment, the defendants would hire truck drivers to haul the shipments to warehouses throughout Southern California. After generating the false paperwork and database entries, the goods would then be diverted back to Los Angeles and other destinations for shipment throughout the United States. As the conspirators had now effectively imported the goods tax-free, they could in turn sell more merchandise at cheaper prices and reap greater profits than their law-abiding competitors, including domestic American manufacturers of the same goods.

The complaint alleges that in addition to harming lawful domestic businesses, the defendants deprived the United States of the Customs duties that it was owed on these diverted shipments. To date, the government has already identified more than 90 commercial shipments of Chinese-made apparel, foreign-made cigarettes and other goods that were illegally imported in this manner. Altogether, these shipments were worth at least $100 million and resulted in more than $10 million in lost Customs duties, taxes and other revenue.

According to United States Attorney Duffy, “The charges announced today underscores our commitment to ensure that no one exploits the import process for personal gain. Not only does such illegal conduct present a significant danger to the American people, but it deprives law-abiding companies of a level playing field resulting in the potential loss ofbillions of dollars in revenue.”

“This investigation pulled back the curtain on a potentially costly fraud scheme operating in one of the world’sbusiest commercial centers,” said ICE Director John Morton. “Instead, HSI, aided by our law enforcement partners, exposed and dismantled this criminal ring and now those responsible will be held accountable.”
“Every day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials work to protect the U.S. and interdict fraudulent goods from entering the country. I commend the work of our officers for their instinct and diligence, and recognize the seamless coordination across government agencies,” said David V. Aguilar, Acting Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Joint efforts such as this are crucial to maintaining our nation’seconomic security and competitiveness.”

“The FDA-Office of Criminal Investigations is fully committed to investigating and supporting the prosecution of those who may endanger the public’s health and safety by importing unsafe and potentially life-threatening products. We commend the U.S.Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of California for their diligence,”said Lisa Malinowski, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Los Angeles Field Office. As alleged in the complaint,defendant Gerardo Chavez is President of the San Diego Customs Brokers Association and a licensed Customs broker. Using his Customs license, Chavez, his employees and his companies—including defendants Tecate Logistics, LLC and International Trade Consultants, LLC—generated the fraudulent Customs paperwork that was integral to the scheme. Similarly, Chavez and his companies would make false entries into Customs databases, in order to create the false appearance that in-bond shipments of foreign-made goods had been lawfully transshipped to Mexico. As part of this effort, Chavez, Joel Varela and others would also forge official Customs markings to make it appear as if a United States Customs official had certified various shipments as having been transshipped to Mexico.

Charging documents also allege that Chavez had several dedicated customers who were part of the conspiracy. For example, defendant Sunil Mirwani, a citizen of the United Kingdom, received dozens of shipments of illegally imported Chinese-made apparel at warehouses throughout the Los Angeles area. Mirwani marketed and sold the apparel using hiscompany, defendant M Trade Inc. Similarly, defendant Rene Trahin and other co-conspirators distributed various shipments of illegally imported “gray market” cigarettes ranging from Indian-made to German-made brands to warehouses, self-storage areas and a residence in San Diego, Los Angeles and parts between.

The complaint alleges that the defendants also imported produce infected by Salmonella Agona. Often called simply “Salmonella,” this pathogen is a potentially life-threatening infectious bacteria. On one occasion, after a shipment of nopal cactus (also known as prickly pear) tested positive for Salmonella,co-conspirator changed the description of the nopal cactus’ grower for subsequent shipments, for the purpose of evading future Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) inspections. Similarly, defendant Elizabeth Sandoval and Varela conspired to import Mexican snack foods that were mislabeled and adulterated with a prohibited dye. The remaining defendants named in the complaint are employees and agents of Customs brokers, wholesalers and transport companies who are alleged to have knowingly aided the conspiracy.

This case is being prosecuted in federal court in San Diego by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy C. Perry and is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, and United States Customs and Border Protection, the Internal Revenue Service, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. A complaint is a formal charging document and defendants are presumed innocent until the Government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Source: US Department of Justice

 

Publication of the latest USCBP Border Patrol Strategic Plan reflects and builds on the transformation of the United States’ relationships with Mexico and Canada, particularly in the areas of border management and security. The joint Declaration of Principles for the 21st-century border represents an enhanced and strengthened commitment to fundamentally restructure the way we manage our shared border. The depth and breadth of cooperation that occurs now between the United States and Mexico was unthinkable even a few years ago. Similarly, the Beyond the Border declaration between Canada and the United States has an equally significant potential in what is already our historically extraordinary relationship with Canada. These developments have created unprecedented opportunities with both Mexico and Canada, in which DHS and CBP will play a defining role, to improve our security and economic competitiveness – and CBP will play a defining role in taking advantage of those opportunities. The Border Patrol in turn is key to advancing CBP’s security agendas with Mexico and Canada, working with its law enforcement counterparts in each country to identify and mitigate threats.

The U.S. Border Patrol is a premier law enforcement organization, recognized around the world for expertise, capabilities, and professionalism. CBP’s officers and agents are the frontline, the guardians of the Nation’s borders. We honor and are proud of them, and we thank them for everything that they do to protect America and the American people. Source: CBP.gov

So there you have it – for a real dose of commercialized Customs and what it can do for the good folks in America, and anywhere else in the world for that matter, check out the strategic plan by clicking here! You’ll be forgiven if you thought you were reading an edition of Jane’s Defense & Security Intelligence & Analysis. Most customs and border management agencies around the world can only dream about such impressive kit! 

Related items

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the European Union (EU) signed today a Mutual Recognition Decision between CBP’s Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program and the EU’s Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) program.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner David V. Aguilar and European Union Taxation and Customs Union Directorate Director-General Heinz Zourek sign the Mutual Recognition Decision between CBP’s Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism program and the EU’s Authorized Economic Operator Program.

CBP Acting Commissioner David V. Aguilar and Director-General Heinz Zourek, European Union Taxation and Customs Union Directorate (TAXUD) signed the decision, which recognizes compatibility between the EU and the U.S. cargo security programs.

“Today’s decision on the mutual recognition of the EU and U.S. trade partnership programmes is a win-win achievement: It will save time and money for trusted operators on both sides of the Atlantic while it will allow customs authorities to concentrate their resources on risky consignments and better facilitate legitimate trade,” said Director-General Zourek.

C-TPAT is a voluntary government-business initiative to build cooperative relationships that strengthen and improve overall international supply chain and U.S. border security. C-TPAT recognized that U.S. Customs and Border Protection can provide the highest level of cargo security only through close cooperation with the ultimate owners of the international supply chain such as importers, carriers, consolidators, licensed customs brokers, and manufacturers. Source: US CBP

Related article

In an ongoing effort to reduce wait times at the International Bridge, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations will pilot a project to bring vehicles to the inspection booths in less time.
The stop signs will be placed in all three upper lanes and will shorten the “pull up” distance to the booth. This allows vehicles to queue up quicker. “Efficacy in movement is paramount to this project’s success. We are always trying to improve the flow of legitimate traffic while enforcing the laws of the United States,” said Patrick Wilson, CBP Sault Ste. Marie Assistant Port Director.

The Sault Ste Marie port of entry has a unique design that separates commercial traffic from car traffic, creating an upper and lower plaza. The focus of this project will be on the upper plaza only and will not affect the flow of traffic on the lower plaza.

Stop signs will be placed in all three upper lanes beginning Friday, April 20. The stop signs will shorten the “pull up” distance to the booth. This allows vehicles to queue up quicker. The stop signs will be placed near Radio Frequency Identification readers where the traveling public can display their Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative RFID-enabled document to pre-populate the officer’s computer screens.

CBP is testing the theory that they can process more travelers each hour by reducing the amount of time it takes each vehicle to get to the inspecting officer. This pilot project will incorporate a two-stop sign process. Upon entering the upper plaza, vehicles will be required to stop at the first existing stop sign. As the vehicle ahead clears, travelers will move to the next new stop sign and present their ID to the RFID reader. Once the vehicle at the inspection booth clears, travelers will proceed to the inspection booth.

Vehicles with trailers/campers are asked to use the lower plaza lanes so as not to impede the functionality of installed equipment. LED signage will be adjusted to notify motorists of this change.

CBP officers will direct traffic periodically during this project to help educate travelers on this new process. “We continue to look for efficiencies in our processes to improve the border crossing experience. If we can save a couple of seconds of inspection time per vehicle, the time savings should reduce each traveler’s wait,” said Assistant Port Director Wilson. Source: http://www.cbp.com