Sunday 27 April 2014

The infamous Overzealous US Customs official and the Auction Catalogues

Peter Tompa alleged a few weeks ago:
There is [...] the issue of the overzealous CBP officials. For example, one recently retired official in CBP's New York office was known to reject the certifications authorized under the CPIA. Instead, he apparently often demanded that the importer produce pictures of artifacts from auction catalogues to prove that an artifact was out of the country of origin as of the date of the restrictions. Obviously, if applied to coins, this would pose a major burden to importers.
Today, in order to create an impression of the huge difficulties facing US coin importers because of legislation attempting to clean up the antiquities market, this has become:
Customs often won't accept it. They will only accept pictures in an auction listing with pictures predating the restrictions. How many coins do you think have that kind of documentation. 1% or 2% or more?
So this is one oddball ICE officer, now out of the service, or all ICE officers? Since the CCPIA quite clearly does not mention anything like "auction catalogues" (please check it for yourself, section 307) it seems to me that if that really has been happening, it is difficult to explain why the ACCG are not using collectors' money to fight a specific and demonstrable breach of the law by US Customs instead of staging the Baltimore illegal coin import stunt? They'd win that one hands down. But perhaps Mr Tompa is not actually stating the full facts about why in the cases to which he refers, the evidence from auction catalogues was sought.

UPDATE 28.04.14:
Now we have another version of the story:
My statements about the auction catalogue requirement don't come from the CPIA, which is the problem. It comes from Customs practice for items designated under the CPIA. Customs takes the position it can ask for additional documentation beyond what is required by the CPIA. This has been verified by importers, other lawyers for importers and a former high ranking customs official.
I'd say it was time for Mr Tompa to set the facts straight, and give some support for his anecdote, so if it is "verified" where can we start to look for that "verification"? (Mr T. baldly stating somebody said something is not verification). Which "importers"? When, where? What happened? Which other "lawyers for importers"? What did they do when their clients were faced with such an extra-legal demand? Were the superiors of these aberrant customs officials notified by the importers and their lawyers of the abuse of the law by their subordinates? What did they do? Is this information about official misbehaviour in the public domain (where/ why not)? This "former high ranking customs official" has he ever been brought to account for making extra-legal demands? Is that why he is no longer a "high ranking customs official"? Who is he?

Vignette: The scary zombie customs officer  - a job for Mythbusters, maybe?

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