Goods which have been legally imported or attempted to be legally imported whether in breach of duty or contrary to prohibitions or restrictions, are liable to forfeiture.  Any conveyances or any goods which are packed with or used to conceal goods liable to forfeiture, are themselves liable to forfeiture.

Where goods are seized by an officer of customs, notice of the seizure is to be given to the owner, except in certain specified circumstances.

A person who claims that anything seized as liable to forfeiture is not so liable, must within 30 days from the date of the notice of seizure or where no notice has been given but in 30 days of the date of seizure, give notice in writing to the Revenue of the claim concerned.  Otherwise the seized goods are deemed to have been duly condemned as forfeited.

There is provision for court proceedings for condemnation of seized goods.  The Revenue may stay or compound any condemnation proceedings and may restore anything seized.  Revenue officials and other officers are indemnified in respect of the seizure of goods, where they act with probable cause.

Procedural Matters

There is provision for rules of court in relation to customs offences.  They may deal in particular with joint and several liability offences by bodies, corporate and continuity of proceeding, service of summons and the non-application of the Probation Act.

In a civil or criminal case where judgment is given against Revenue officials  on account of the seizure or detention of anything, the plaintiff is not entitled to any damage or costs, besides the things seized or value of such thing.  Such officials are not liable to punishment or penalty providing the courts fines with probable cause for the seizure.

In proceedings under the Customs Act, certain things are to be presumed until the contrary is shown.  This includes, for example, that officers are property appointed and authorised.  In proceedings under the Customs Act, any question arises in relation to specified matters, the onus of proof lies on the person bringing the proceedings.

A person may be liable for more than one penalty in respect of the same offence under customs and other legislation.

Administrative Penalties

There is provision for administrative penalties for contravention of certain customs rules and procedures.    Administrative penalties for customs matters introduced in 2011 are broadened to in 2015.  A person aggrieved may by decision to apply in administrative penalty, may appeal.

The legislation specifies the breaches of customs law that may incur administrative penalties

and o specifies the amount of the different penalties to be imposed in each case. It  provides for cases where corporate entities are liable for an administrative penalty.

Any penalty payable is deemed to be a debt due to the Minister for Finance for the benefit of the Central Fund and shall be payable to the Commissioners. The Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provisions for the collection of penalties applies.

This provision does not prevent any action or proceedings being otherwise brought for the collection or recovery of duties of customs.

Enforcement Powers

Officers of Revenue, Customs and excise branch, members of an Garda Siochana and other persons in public service employed in the prevention of smuggling have powers in relation to the enforcement of customs legislation. Their powers apply to goods which are prohibited or restricted from import or export, or which require a licence.

There are extensive powers to search any persons reasonably suspected of unlawfully possessing any such goods  or with intent to importing or  export them or to assist in doing so.

When officers of customs and excise reasonably suspect that goods are intend for import or  export in contravention of law, they may request the  person in whose possession or control they are,  give information relevant to the goods, of which they are in possession, including documents.

Information may be required about the ownership of the goods, the intended disposition, their purpose at the particular place,  whether they were intended for exports, whether a license has been obtained.  The persons is possession is obliged  to provide the information and failure to do so, is in offence subject to a customs penalty.

General Powers of Customs Officers

There is a power of entry, inspection and patrol of certain places for officers of customs and any person assisting the officer for the purpose of carrying out their functions under the Customs act at any time and without warrant.  The power to patrol along the coast and land frontier and in customs ports and  airports is part of the mechanism for combating smuggling. A customs officer may take any necessary equipment material, vehicle, et cetera. As required for investigation.

An officer of customs in uniform or in a patrol vessel may stop or cause to stop, any conveyance which is entering or has entered the State, is leaving the State or is in the contiguous zone of the State or any other place within the State.  In the case of vehicles other than at ports,  airports and on the land frontier, the right to stop applies, only where the customs officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that a customs offence is being committed.

Search Powers of Customs Officers

A person in charge of a vehicle, shall with the request of the officer of customs, keep it stationary, to enable the officer to board, search and examine any goods on or in it and bring it to a place required for such boarding, inspection or examination.

A customs officer may enter,  board or search any vehicle that is entering or has entered the State or is leaving or intends to leave the State and  examine goods carried on it. A customs officer may examine goods under customs control.  The customs officer may search and enter premises with a District Court warrant.  He may be accompanied by other persons as the officer considers necessary.  He may seize or detain anything found in the course of the search which appears might be required as evidence in proceedings.

A customs officer may search with reasonable cause a person in the vicinity of any port or airport, the land frontier, coast or any premises or land, the subject of a search warrant.  A customs officer may seize and detain anything found in the course of the search which may be required in proceedings for customs offences or under any other act.  There are safeguards in relation to personal searches.  Searches for internal concealed drugs are dealt with by Garda Siochana.

A customs officer may stop and question a person entering or leaving the State with regard to their journey and baggage.  Baggage may be searched.

Arrest Detention Seizure Powers

Where a customer officer has reasonable grounds to suspect a person is committing an offence in respect of

  • failure to pay duty;
  • non-compliance with customs requirements
  • where the person has assaulted an officer of customs,

the officer may arrest the person concerned without warrant.

Goods which are being imported, exported, or intended to be imported or exported, without payment of the relevant duty or in  contravention of any provision on importation or exportation may be detained, for the purpose of determining their status.  Vehicles including cars, boats, ships etc, carrying the goods may also  be detained.  The goods, vehicles  and vessels may be seized and ultimately forfeited.

A customs officer may on grounds of reasonable suspicion, detain goods and vehicles  being imported or exported into or from  the State, pending the outcome of enquiries and investigations, as to whether they are in compliance with the customs act. A  customs officer may detain goods being imported or exported that he has reasonable grounds to suspect,t might be required as evidence in criminal proceedings under the Customs Act or other legislation.

The District Court may grant search warrants permitting the  search of  books and records relating to transactions in breach of customs law.  Places or premises may be searched.  The search may be undertaken by members of the customs and excise.

Forfeiture I

Any goods liable to any duty on importation, which are imported without payment or contrary to any legislation are liable to forfeiture, together with goods which would be found packed or used with or in concealing such goods.

Goods which are in the course of being illegally imported or exported (or where there is an attempt to do so)  are liable to forfeiture.  Ships, boats carriages cars, and other vehicles used for such purpose are themselves liable to forfeiture. Where goods are found in or attached to a vehicle, the vehicle is deemed to be in use for the purpose of the transport of such goods.

If goods being goods, the exportation of which is prohibited or restricted by any enactment or statutory instrument have been dealt with as follows, they are liable to forfeiture

  • exported in contravention of any enactment or statutory instrument;
  • attempted to be so exported;
  • brought to any place for such purpose;
  • are being brought to such place for such purpose;
  • have been kept in any place facilitating exportation in contravention;
  • have been dealt with any manner with intent to evade such prohibition or restriction.

then all ships, boats, carriages and conveyances including animals used in the exportation or conveyance of goods shall themselves be liable to forfeiture.

Forfeiture II

Revenue may give a notice that to a person that if he makes or intends to make a claim in relation to the seizure. The claimant must give notice of his particulars and if resident abroad, the address of a solicitor within the State authorised to accept documents.

A customs officer may seize any goods and vehicles liable to forfeiture under the act.  They may be kept in the custody of an officer of the Revenue commissioners or at secured place designated by the Revenue. Notice of seizure is given to the owner of the goods.  If he cannot be traced, it is published in Irish Oifigiul.

Notice of Forfeiture

When goods are seized, the seizing officer is to give notice in writing of the seizure and the grounds to the master or owner of the things seized if known either by delivering such notice to him personally or by letter addressed to his last known place of business or address if known.

Goods seized may be sold and disposed of as the customs authority may direct unless the person for whom such seizure has been made or some person authorised by him shall within 30 days give notice to the person seizing the same that he claims the goods, whereupon procedures shall be taken for forfeiture and condemnation.

If goods are of a perishable nature or consist of animals, they may be sold by direction of the revenue and the proceeds held were by the result of any such claim.

Any seizures which have been made and condemned under the customs act or other legislation may be disposed of in such manner as the customs may direct.

Condemnation I

Proceedings for condemnation by the court are civil proceedings, and are  commenced in the name of the Commissioners. Where in any condemnation proceedings the court finds that the thing seized was, at the time of seizure, liable to forfeiture, the court shall condemn it as forfeited, and in any other case the court shall order its release.

Condemnation proceedings may be instituted in the High Court or, if in the opinion of the Commissioners the value of the thing seized (that is to be the subject of such proceedings) does not exceed—

  • €75,000, the Circuit Court, or
  • €15,000, the District Court.

In any condemnation proceedings, the claimant or any solicitor acting on behalf of such claimant, shall state on oath that the thing seized was, or was to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, the property of the claimant at the time of the seizure.

Condemnation II

The Commissioners may, in their discretion, stay or compound any condemnation proceedings. The Commissioners may restore anything seized which is the subject of condemnation proceedings. Where in any condemnation proceedings—

  • judgment is given for the claimant and the court or judge certifies that there was probable cause for making such seizure or detention, no officer of the Commissioners or other person who made or assisted in making the seizure is liable to any civil or criminal proceedings on account of the seizure or detention of the thing seized, and
  • anything is condemned as forfeited, the forfeiture shall apply from the date when the liability to forfeiture arose.Following condemnation of goods as forfeited by court, they must be sold, destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the Revenue shall direct.

The Revenue may restore seized goods to a claimant prior to condemnation by the court.  They may return goods to a claimant prior to court proceedings, on payment of a sum not exceeding the value of the goods plus duty or tax payable.  If they are subsequently determined by a court not to be liable to forfeiture, the claimant will be repaid the sum, less any tax due.

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