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Seizures

Recovering Your Seized Cargo from U.S. Customs

posted by Jennifer Diaz August 22, 2011 0 comments

On September 8, 2011, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST, the Journal of Commerce will host a webinar entitled “Recovering Your Seized Cargo”.   The panel experts will explain the CBP detention and seizure process, as well as the administrative petition and judicial forfeiture process.

If you have ever had your money seized by Customs for failure to declare over $10,000, had merchandise seized for misdeclaring its value or not paying enough customs duties, had your bank account seized for alleged trade-based money laundering, or had any other items detained or seized by U.S. Customs for violating another Federal agency’s regulations, you should sign up for this webinar.

The fee is only $155 for this most informative webinar taught by experts with a comprehensive understanding of the internal policies and procedures of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  A little knowledge now could save you time, frustration, and a lot of money by learning how to avoid a seizure, or when a seizure has already occurred, how to get your seized cargo back as quickly as possible.

Whatever the type of merchandise, whether it is an import or an export shipment, whether it will be sold in the United States or just moving in-transit through the United States, whether it needs a special import or export license, U.S. Customs seizes and forfeits tens of millions of dollars of merchandise every year.  Download the Powerpoint presentations, and get involved in the Q&A session. Click  “Recovering Your Seized Cargo” to register at the Journal of Commerce website.

FoodU.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Reconditioning Imported Food Refused by the FDA

posted by Jennifer Diaz May 15, 2011 0 comments

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is increasingly stopping and examining imported shipments of food attempting to enter the United States.  Often, the FDA does not allow the food to enter the United States by declaring it to be misbranded or adulterated by filth or decomposition.  Virtually always, refused food is then either destroyed or exported from the United States. There is a little known, but valuable, option called "reconditioning".

Once reconditioned, food that was originally rejected by the FDA may legally enter the commerce of the United States.  How, when, and why to recondition food is the subject of a webinar on May 25, 2011, sponsored by the Journal of Commerce, and presented by attorney Peter Quinter and FDA manager John Verbeten.

John Verbeten is the Director of Operations and Policy Branch, Division of Import Operations and Policy, at FDA Headquarters.  The discussion will cover detention without physical examination (DWPE), the Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA Regulatory Procedures Manual, and the practical use of FDA Form 766.

Registration for the webinar is done on-line at the Journal of Commerce website.

Separately, a seminar for importers, customs brokers, and other persons involved in international trade is taking place in Tampa, Florida, on June 1, 2011. This will be a practical "how to" regarding the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, FDA’s Detention Without Physical Examination (DWPE) and Notice of Refusal procedures, FDA Import Alerts, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection issuance of Liquidated Damages for failure to redelivery FDA refused merchandise.

Export

New Export Enforcement Priorities Come with New Names at the Bureau of Industry and Security

posted by Jennifer Diaz April 17, 2011 0 comments

On April 14, 2011, in Washington, D.C., David Mills, the new Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), U.S. Department of Commerce, and his Special Advisor, Bob Rarog, explained the enforcement priorities of BIS. These priorities were established by Eric Hirschhorn, who was just sworn in as Under Secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) on April 2, 2010, after being appointed by President Obama. This event was part of the American Bar Association’s Section of International Law’s Export Controls and Economic Sanctions Committee.

David Mills, who has an excellent perspective from recently being a private practicing attorney, and was formerly the Chief of Licensing at the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), identified the three primary initiatives of export enforcement by the BIS.

1.  Efficiency – process administrative cases faster.

2.  Education – outreach program to exporting companies.

3.  Enforcement – going for the $250,000 maximum penalty or twice the value of the transaction, whichever is greater.

David Mills stated that where both OFAC and BIS have jurisdiction over a violation, it is best to file voluntary self disclosure simultaneously with both agencies.  Generally, Special Agents from the BIS’ Office of Export Enforcement will conduct the investigation thereafter.  Another interesting point was that the Obama Administration remains focused on Iran, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and prohibiting any transactions with Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs). This is consistent with the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent National Counter-Proliferation Initiative to increase the detection and prosecution of export control violations. For the past two years since this Initiative started, the number of criminal and civil cases targeting violations of the ITAR, EAR and trade sanctions have greatly increased. Federal agents from the FBI, Justice, BIS, ICE, OFAC, State and Defense have investigated and prosecuted companies and individuals for illegally exporting goods and technology not only to countries such as Iran, China and Cuba, but also to close allies such as Canada, Mexico, Taiwan and Israel. 

What surprised many of the legal experts listening to David Mills who practice in the area of export controls was the statement by Mr. Mills that the filing of voluntary self disclosure by the company with BIS will not necessarily protect the employees of that company. Mr. Mills was sending a message:

Willful or knowing, as opposed to inadvertent,  violations by individuals will be punished.

Mr. Mills clearly set forth a new policy:

Special Agents of BIS are directed to focus on investigating culpable individuals for criminal prosecution or civil penalties.

He also stated that it is often an appropriate action for the company to terminate the employee who violates the laws of the United States.

SeizuresU.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Notice of Detention of Merchandise by U.S. Customs and Border Protection

posted by Jennifer Diaz February 24, 2011 4 Comments

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a February 22, 2011 60-Day Notice and Request for Comments regarding its use of a "Notice of Detention".  I know, a lot of you are saying to yourselves, "When did CBP starting using Notices of Detention," and my response to you is "That’s a darn good question!"

The law, 19 U.S.C. 1499 and 19 CFR 151.16, allows CBP officers at the border to stop and search persons for merchandise.  If the CBP officer discovers something suspicious, and takes it from you, then it has been "detained".  In exchange, the CBP officer is required to send to the importer or passenger a Notice of Detention form no later than 5 business days from the date of the examination, stating that: (1) the merchandise has been detained, (2) the reason for the detention, and (3) the anticipated length of the detention. 

That all sounds reasonable, but the problem is that the legal requirement is often ignored by CBP.  Often, a Notice of Detention is never issued by CBP to the importer, or is issued late or does not state the reason for the detained merchandise.  I  have seen a few hundred Notices of Detention over the past 21 years as a customs lawyer, but have never seen one that described "the anticipated length of detention."

The Request for Comments asks the public for "ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected."  I have a way to enhance the quality of the CBP Notice of Detention – follow the law and issue it every time, on time, and accurately.   For those who want to respond formally to CBP, click on the link for the address to address comments before April 25, 2011

ExportU.S. Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)

Save Money by Admitting Your Export Violations to the U.S. Commerce Department

posted by Jennifer Diaz December 12, 2010 0 comments

Sometimes it is beneficial for an exporter to voluntarily self-disclose its export violations to the U.S. Government.  Maybe an exportation of an item occurred without first obtaining the necessary license, or maybe the item was shipped to a company overseas other than allowed in a license. Both situations are violations of the Export Administration Regulations, and both violations could result in $250,000 penalties against the exporter. By voluntarily self-disclosing the violation, the exporter would reduce, and might even eliminate, such a penalty.

For a suspected violation of 15 CFR 764.2 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) enforced by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, an exporter may submit a voluntary self-disclosure (popularly known as a "VSD") to the Office of Export Enforcement of BIS at its Washington, D.C. headquarters office.  The contents of what must be included in a VSD are established in 15 CFR 764.5.

Procedurally, once a properly filed VSD is received by the BIS, it is investigated by a Special Agent from the Office of Export Enforcement. If a penalty or other sanction is contemplated, the case is referred to an attorney with the Office of Chief Counsel of BIS.  The BIS attorney will contact the exporter’s attorney, eventually resulting in a written Settlement Agreement between the exporter and the BIS.  Negotiating the terms of the Settlement Agreement is critical.

The Obama Administration is actively pursuing export control reforms. Importantly, Kevin Wolf, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration, on November 9, 2010, at the Global Trade Controls Conference in London, England, stated:

Enforcement will become an even higher priority…We have long promoted the submission of voluntary self-disclosures (VSDs).  We view VSDs, along with internal compliance programs, as important mitigating factors. 

There will always be occasional errors by exporters.  Exporters should consult with knowledgeable and experienced international trade attorneys before submitting a VSD.  With more enforcement, there are sure to be more investigations and more penalties assessed by the Government against exporters, and likely more VSDs submitted to the Government by exporters.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

Caviar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

posted by Jennifer Diaz August 27, 2010 0 comments

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for regulating and managing the export and sale of paddlefish roe (caviar).  To obtain a paddlefish roe export permit, an applicant must establish that it properly harvested the roe, and that its export would not undermine the survival of the species. But what happens when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has had the application for months, and has taken no action on it?

Paddlefish are 1 of 3 types of egg-bearing (roe) species native to the United States that are allowed to be commercially exported for their eggs, which are processed into caviar.  For Leisure Caviar, a wholesale dealer of paddlefish roe, and Bemka Corporation, a buyer of paddlefish roe, they had applied to the Fish and Wildlife Service for export permits for 4,074 pounds of roe worth $500,000.  The Fish and Wildlife Service had taken no action on the applications which had been filed from between 7 to 12 months earlier.  The shelf life of paddlefish roe is only 12 months. 

The applicant companies sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Federal Court in Chattanooga, Tennessee, seeking to get the Court to order the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review and grant the applications.  Instead, the Court dismissed the law suit.  The Court’s legal Opinion explained that the companies "had failed exhausted their administrative remedies, a prerequisite for bringing suit against the U.S. Government under the Federal Tort Claims Act…"  Moreover, upon appeal to a higher court, the appellate court stated:

The processing of applications under the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) amounts to a discretionary responsibility, one ineligible for mandamus relief.

In other words, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could take whatever time it wanted in reviewing the export applications of the companies. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision in dismissing the case.

To me, this is another arrogant example of "Government Gone Wild".  Did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forget the meaning of the word "Service"?

FoodU.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

FDA To Inspect Foreign Food Facilities Starting October 1, 2010

posted by Jennifer Diaz August 11, 2010 1 Comment

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued notices to all foreign food facilities registered with the FDA that it will conduct an inspection of those facilities between October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011.  Foreign food facilities that manufacturer, process, pack, hold, and ship food to the United States must have registered with the FDA pursuant to the Bioterrorism Act.  Foreign food facilities that do not properly respond to the FDA notices may have their registrations automatically terminated. In effect, that will result in a detention of any food that arrives in the United States from those canceled facilities.

It is no secret why the FDA is visiting foreign food facilities shipping food to the United States.  See blog post "The FDA is Flexing Its Enforcement Muscles".  The Foreign Food Inspection Team at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) based in College Park, Maryland, is responsible for coordinating the foreign food inspections.  The recent FDA notices state, in part:

The inspection will be conducted by an investigator of the FDA to determine if your facility is operating in accordance with U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its regulations, including Title 21 CFR Part 110, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) regulations.

Any foreign food facilities not yet registered may register with the FDA using a website www.FDA-USA.com established and operated by my law firm for a fee.  It is very easy to register on-line in English, Spanish, Portuguese, or German.  Companies should properly prepare prior to the FDA inspection.

ExportU.S. Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

Everything You Need to Know About Exporting

posted by Jennifer Diaz November 16, 2009 0 comments

In the next few weeks, I am giving lectures and doing a webinar on the general topic of export compliance.  In my legal practice over the past 20 years as a Customs and International Trade attorney, I am increasingly involved with clients on export compliance and penalty matters.  The laws and regulations have changed dramatically over the past few years, as has the name and number of Federal agencies enforcing them, plus the penalties for non-compliance are much higher now.

Please call (305) 260-1053 with any questions regarding the below seminar/webinar (or compliance generally).

(1) On Wednesday, November 18, from 9 to 12 noon at the Doubletree Miami Mart, on behalf of the Florida Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association, I am lecturing on complying with the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) requirements.  The seminar is entitled “Export Controls Compliance and Best Business Practices,” and it will cover everything from identifying the correct ECCN (Export Commodity Classification Number) in the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), to submitting an export license, to  the decrementing of the license by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to interacting with Special Agents of the BIS’s Office of Export Enforcement conducting an investigation, to negotiating a favorable resolution after a Notice of Proposed Penalty has been issued against the company for an export violation.  I will also cover the various trade embargoes and sanctions with countries and foreign nationals and foreign organizations enforced by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  That means everything from Cuba to Zimbabwe and from Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) to narco-traffickers.   Violations of BIS and OFAC regulations may result in severe criminal punishment or monetary penalties in the millions of dollars, plus individuals have personal liability.

(2) This Thursday, November 19, from 6:30-8:15 p.m, at the University of Phoenix, 11410 NW 20th Street, Miami, on behalf of the South Florida Chapter of the National Association of Purchasing Management (NAPM), I will discuss “Export Controls Compliance and Penalties”. 

(3) On December 3, 2009, I will be a speaker in an “AES Compliance Webinar” from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.  It is sponsored by the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) Educational Institute. To participate, simply go to www.ncbfaa.org and select “AES Compliance Webinar” under “Upcoming Events.” The webinar answers the questions of how, when, and why to file the required Electronic Export Information (EEI) using AESDirect.  U.S. Customs is now regularly issuing penalties against exporters or freight forwarders for not properly filing the EEI.  If you are wondering what happened to the old Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED) form, you should participate in this webinar that I am doing in cooperation with the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

 

 

FoodImportU.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

I am Not Worried That My Food Is “Safe”, Are You?

posted by Jennifer Diaz November 10, 2009 2 Comments

The United States Congress is considering legislation to make the food we eat, especially imported food, “safe and secure”.  In my opinion, even if our food needs protecting, the proposed legislation only adds to the current Federal bureaucracy.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already has a comprehensive regulatory procedure to stop, examine, and refuse imported food which it considers adulterated or misbranded, or otherwise not fit for human (or animal) consumption.  The current FDA system is working very well, and  the only achievement of the proposed legislation will be to increase the price of food.  We need enforcement of the current laws, not a bunch of new laws.

Granted, there are numerous instances of imported food making people sick, and even causing death.  15% of the food we eat is imported. Nevertheless, the overwhelming number of Americans who get sick or die from consuming food had nothing to do with imported food.  You may get sick at your local restaurant with food poisoning because of the poor handling of the food at the restaurant, not because the food came from overseas.

Currently, for any food to enter the United States, the importer must submit an electronic entry to both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the FDA.  The entry information includes the name of the importer, a description of the imported food, the name of its manufacturer, the country of origin, the value, the buyer of the food, and where the food is to be delivered.  The requirements of the Bio-terrorism Act of 2002 require “prior notice” which means that the importer must advise U.S. Customs and the FDA far in advance of the arrival of the food at a border crossing of the United States. The U.S. General Accountability Office just issued a thorough Food Safety Report which has an excellent graphic at page 58-59 describing the imported food procedures.  The Report did state that our food supply is safe, but that U.S. Customs and FDA could do better. 

The Government made significant changes already regarding the traceability of food in the Bioterrorism Act which went into effect in December 2003. It required all foreign companies involved in the manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding food that enters the United States to first register with the FDA so that the food may be traced all the way back from the retailer to its source overseas.  Companies may register on-line at www.FDA-USA.com.   

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