Kaohsiung Customs states that if importers declare other people's goods in their own names to Customs, they bear the risk of punishment when the declaration gets involved with false declaration or concealment of goods. The importers shall not be exempt from punishment by claiming they are unaware of the violation.
Customs officers recently seized narcotics concealed among chemical goods but found the importer was not the true owner. Although the owner was later caught and sentenced by the court, the importer was also fined more than NT$ 10 million in accordance with the Customs Anti-smuggling Act.
Kaohsiung Customs further clarifies that according to the Supreme Administrative Court's Judgment No. 39 in 2013, Paragraph 1 and Paragraph 3 of Article 37 of the Customs Anti-smuggling Act punish actions of “false declaration” and “evasion from trade control”, which do not rule out the culpability of negligent actions. The establishment of inadvertent negligence is based on “ignorance” (not knowing), but the actor should still “exercise his duty of care that he should and could have exercised in the circumstances”. Therefore, the actor cannot argue for exemption from liability on grounds of negligence by claiming that he has not foreseen the occurrence of violation.
In other words, the judgment illustrates that the administrative penalty is imposed for the negligence of the importer. Even if the importer may not be aware of the concealment of the goods, as long as there is still possibility for verification, it is difficult to consider the declaration as a non-negligent action. As a result, the importer in this case faces a substantial fine because Article 36 of the Customs Anti-smuggling Act clearly stipulates that the fines are calculated according to the prices of goods, and there are no “market prices” of narcotics for reference. If the price is calculated based on foreign records under Article 35 of the Customs Act instead, the amount is often tremendously huge.
Kaohsiung customs reminds that, in international trade, it is common for agents to earn service fees by importing goods in their names and then delivering goods to true owners. These importers must fulfill their responsibility to check the imported goods. When officers discover issues of false declaration, evasion of trade control or other violations in their declarations, they shall not ask for a reduction or exemption from punishment by claiming their ignorance of the violations. Consequently, importers should be cautious about their customs declaration to avoid traps set up by drug dealers or smuggling groups.