HMRC and border force seizure

HMRC and border force seizure


Our experienced Customs and Excise Seizure Solicitors understand the complex and dynamic rules and regulations in this area of law. Based in Leeds, Sheffield and York we assist clients throughout the UK in recovering assets seized at the UK border.

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Legal Advice for HMRC and UK Border Authority Seizures

To discuss your requirements please contact Jeremy Scott on 07971520407

If your business involves moving goods into or out of the UK, you will understand how disruptive it can be if supply chains are interrupted by the seizure of goods by HMRC and/or the UK Border Authority (“UKBA”). If this occurs, you need immediate expert advice to minimise the impact on your commercial operation and the reputation of your business.

Our experienced customs and excise solicitors understand the complex and dynamic rules and regulations in this area, as well as the attitude and approaches adopted by the relevant authorities. Recently, HMRC have taken a stricter line on those who avoid paying duty on goods, and penalties can be severe, including criminal convictions. We provide timely and pro-active advice at every stage of the process.

The ability to work quickly is vital in this field, as strict time limits apply when goods have been confiscated. We navigate our clients through the necessary protocols to ensure delays and costs are minimised and, wherever possible, confiscated goods are returned.

Contact us as soon as your goods are seized, and we will immediately put together an appropriate response.

What powers do HMRC and UKBA have?

Goods can be seized by Customs Officers if:

  • The correct duty has not been paid
  • The goods are banned in the UK
  • UK customs laws or regulations have been broken
  • There is a suspicion of smuggling

The UKBA can act if its officers are not satisfied as to the source or intended use of goods or money. Any suspicion that the goods come from, or are intended for, an unlawful source entitles customs officers to seize not only the goods or money, but also the method of transport used.

We are experts across all areas of customs and excise law, regularly supporting clients who are subject to:

  • Claims of money laundering
  • Cash seizure and forfeiture
  • Third party confiscation
  • Freezing orders
  • Unexplained wealth orders
  • Restraint orders

Our team have a huge amount of experience dealing with customs officials and are dedicated to supporting clients to regain their property.

How do we support our clients?

Every case is different, so a unique strategy is required for each set of circumstances. The first step is usually to immediately challenge the seizure by lodging a Notice of Claim. This needs to happen within one calendar month of the goods or money being seized. If this time limit is not met, you could be held to have accepted the seizure, and you will not be able to challenge it later in the process.

Alongside this condemnation process, you can also begin restoration proceedings, which involves writing to HMRC or UKBA and requesting the return of your property. This can take place at the same time as lodging your Notice of Claim.

In addition to this, we also support clients who wish to make formal complaints against the treatment they receive from customs officials.

Whatever strategy we adopt, we are pro-active and dynamic in our actions, ensuring that the seizure process creates the smallest possible impact on your business.

What is our goal following an HMRC or UKBA seizure of goods?

It is not illegal to import or export goods such as cigarettes, alcohol, vehicles, or cash. Our primary goal is to show that you complied with all procedural requirements and that there is a legitimate, lawful purpose for the movement of those goods. If this is established, then the goods will usually be returned, and your legal costs can be recovered.

Where it is not possible to establish this, our experience and understanding of the relevant laws and regulations will help to minimise the impact of any penalty.

What powers do customs officers have under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002?

Where a customs officer reasonably suspects cash (above a £1,000 minimum amount) is intended for use in crime, or was acquired through criminal activity, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 empowers them to seize that money. Proceedings in the magistrates’ court can then secure the forfeiture of the cash if sufficient evidence supports the claim.

Investigations into the origin or intended use of the cash can take months or years, throughout which time the cash will be withheld. Even if sufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution cannot be obtained, the authorities can still proceed with a civil cash forfeiture action, as this only requires proof on the balance of probabilities, rather than beyond reasonable doubt. In a civil case, you will have to prove the legitimate source or purpose for the cash.

Providing the authorities with a clear, consistent, and compelling explanation throughout the often long and drawn-out process is key to a successful outcome, or to minimising the consequences of a negative one. We will take the lead in developing a robust response to Proceeds of Crime actions.

What powers do customs officers have under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979?

Items can be “liable to forfeiture” under the Act for a variety of reasons, including failure to pay the correct duty or complete the required paperwork, disputes over the valuation of the goods, or the goods themselves being illegal or restricted in the UK (such as indecent or obscene material).

Examples of items which are often seized under the terms of the Act are:

  • Vehicles
  • Weapons
  • Tobacco products
  • Endangered animals
  • Some foodstuffs
  • Indecent or obscene material

The reason for the seizure will be explained to you, and you will be issued with a Border Force Seizure Notice, which will provide details of the confiscation. The items will be taken to a secure storage facility, and you may be charged a storage fee for the duration of the proceedings.

Our border seizure expertise

The impact of HMRC or UKBA seizing your property can be massive, both in terms of the impact on your commercial operation and on your reputation. Our team is renowned for achieving positive results for our clients, and for reducing the negative impact of any unavoidable consequences.

We have over 30 years’ experience dealing with HMRC and UKBA, experience we can draw upon to provide dynamic, pro-active advice which is practical and communicated in jargon-free plain English. We are proud of our reputation for working tirelessly for our clients, and for our dedication to your cause. In your hour of need, we will be by your side.

Contact us

Lupton Fawcett’s team of Business and Financial Crime Solicitors are highly regarded for successfully defending businesses and individuals facing investigation or prosecution for all types of fraud offences.

If you’ve had assets seized at the UK border Lupton Fawcett can provide comprehensive support, specialist legal advice, and skilful representation.

Our team is led by Jeremy Scott who has 25 years’ experience of defending clients across the full spectrum of corporate and financial crime cases so you can rest assured that whatever the circumstance are, we’ll be able to help find the optimal outcome.

At such a critical time for the reputation and future of you and your business, it is imperative that you choose the right lawyers to advise and represent you. Lupton Fawcett, ranked in The Legal 500 for Regulatory Law, is known for winning cases that other firms would lose.

Part of a nationally recognised full-service law firm, we are able to assemble a multi-disciplinary team to support you through a criminal regulatory investigation or prosecution with the utmost care.

We also understand that business has to continue as, so our approach is always highly commercial, putting business continuity at the heart of our advice and representation whenever possible.

Within every area of law, we put your interests first.

Our HMRC and Border Force Seizure Solicitors act regularly for corporate clients across England and Wales including Bradford, Birmingham, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield, York, and Nottingham.

We can support your needs wherever you live in England or Wales

We will always respond promptly, and we will be happy to help.

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