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UK Import Issue - Border force Seizure and Court Case


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@Brian feel free to move this to a different section if needed 


I Recently purchased a couple of swords from the USA in an auction, I've done this many times and not had too much of an issue except postal service delays etc and long customs times.

Usually i use UPS or Parcelforce, If I can't use UPS. For some reason even after requesting UPS, The auction house I purchased the items from used DHL express.

 

1. UK law on importing swords:

   a. Swords with a "curved blade" over 50cm long are illegal to bring into the uk UNLESS:

        i. Antiques

        ii. Swords Made to traditional methods

        iii. Swords made with any method before 1954.

 

Both swords easily meet these categories ;

1. a Koto era blade unsigned in ww2 gunto mounts    - meets exception i. ii. and iii.

2. A star stamped RJT blade by Masatsugu    -- meets exception ii. iii.  and could be argued i.

 

any one of these conditions make the sword legal to import so I should of had no issues as each one meets at least 2 categories.

 


2. Shipping.

 

I made the auction house include the invoice to the outside and inside of the box. I also wrote a supplementary A4 sheet with a description of each item and more importantly why they are legal. 
After the item shipped it went through customs a few times in the USA and then hit the uk where it was held in customs. I received a phone call asking for an invoice as it was not included supposedly. I emailed over the invoice and also included the supplementary information just in case.

 

this was the 6th of February.

 

the item cleared customs then went back in and i had to supply the invoice again. this was the 9th of feb.

 

I phoned up a few times in the coming days to check what was going on because i had been told it would be out for delivery 

 

on wednesday the 16th i received an email to pay my customs duty and taxes. 

I was happy with this as that means it had cleared customs and was going to be out for delivery.

 

the next day it hit another customs check and was held. 

 

3. Police

 

on the 18th of february I had a notifcation on my nest doorbell and when checking i saw two policemen at my door.

I wasn't at home and they left but when i reviewed the footage and listened to the audio they mentioned the words "samurai sword"

 

I called the non emergency police number that evening and asked what was happening but was told there was no incident and my address and name weren't anywhere they could find.

 

in the morning it was still bothering me so i called again and the helpful guy at the police station put out a notification asking who had gone and why.

 

after this i received the post and in the post lo and behold i had a document from Borderforce saying the swords had been seized and to get them back I'd have to write a letter to borderforce requesting a court appearance.

The swords may be destroyed already but I would receive compensation if i win the case.

 

I called HMRC and spoke to them about the importing issues and while I was on the phone the police arrived at my door.

 

the came in and gave me a print out from google on the law on bringing in swords to the UK, they hadn't even read it themselves as they didn't know the exceptions themselves and kept telling me, it was illegal to keep the swords in my house. I refuted this a few times and pointed out the exceptions on the very paper they had handed me.

 

I was quite annoyed at being treated like a criminal with the police arriving at my door!

 

4. The next step.

 

I got onto my computer and wrote up a two page response that I then posted to Borderforce. I have to wait a minimum of 10 days from receipt to get a response which i'm currently awaiting.

This will be a civil court date and I will have to go and represent myself and why i believe Borderforce have made a mistake in seizing the items.

 

While i have no doubt the items are legal to bring in and i did everything I could. there was no real information on what caused the seizure of the items so i'm not sure if there is maybe something else I don't know. I will find out

 

I will be updating this article as time goes on and more information comes along, hopefully this article can be a point of contact for myself if anyone else has the same issue and needs some guidance.

 

 

 

5. Court

 

6. Resolution

 

 

 

 

 

 

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😱

 

I'm hoping everything works out. Thank you for writing about this. Me and my friend were going to send the best of our collections to either the Christie's or Bonhams UK branches for auction.  

 

I have no idea what would have happened if this were to be the situation for both of us. Holy madness..

 

Wow

 

J.

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Hey @LareonTony. Did you mention to me on PM about the senders not completing or writing the invoice correctly ? Apparently they wrote "machine made " 

 

Also DHL Apparently have a yes or no policy on swords. Which we don't know for sure. 

 

Is DHL depot in London ? 

 

Really hope this works out for you. I hate this sort of stuff, and was the main reason I joined the token society , for backup. 

 

On my next order for example I plan to include on the invoice 

Date of manufacture 

Name of Smith 

How much I paid 

Intended purpose ie private collection 

And my token membership 

 

Also I thought I tag @TomJ

 

As Tom's recent purchase from Japan managed to get past customs with ease without charge I beleive. 

 

Regards

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Hello Tony,

                  Good luck...Unprofessional and ignorant fools have infiltrated the system everywhere and as Stephen highlighted the two police officers are the epitome of unprofessionalism...

Regards,

               Paul...

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Had a few dealers in the past email over the description for confirmation before they ship.

 

Wont buy without this in the future, better to be prepared for any hassles.

 

On a few occasions had sellers totally ignore what i wanted them to state on the parcel and just put what they thought best. Never said anything due to the item arriving safely though.

 

Wont be any more like this, has to be right, we got muppets at customs!

 

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1 hour ago, Alex A said:

Had a few dealers in the past email over the description for confirmation before they ship.

 

Totally agree Alex this is what I missed out when mine went tits up. 

 

I wrote "100 year old antique 9706.00.00.00 customs tarrif".

 

I mentioned nothing about details on who and when made it or how much I paid gbp.

 

I plan to contact the chairman of the token society sometime this weekend to make him aware. And see if the society can provide any written documentation,  which can be used to present to customs at any issue. 

 

Regards 

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Wise, by those that do it.

 

Maybe even pictures of the package, showing description, before its shipped.

 

Sending items worth £1000s through the post, not too much to ask for.

 

And actually, the description is the first thing i look at on receiving a parcel!!!

 

 

 

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I must Say AOI were very good and put loads of info with the paper work as I requested, including age and smith info with a full description of the sword, the invoice and a copy of the NBTHK cert

 

They seemed happy to put in what ever i requested,

 

i still think even with the correct info it can all get delays and hassles if you get the wrong customs person unfortunately.

 

on this occasion it worked very well and i was lucky only spent a couple of days in customs and then straight though with not questions for me

 

Tom 

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1 hour ago, TomJ said:

I must Say AOI were very good and put loads of info with the paper work as I requested, including age and smith info with a full description of the sword, the invoice and a copy of the NBTHK cert

 

They seemed happy to put in what ever i requested,

 

i still think even with the correct info it can all get delays and hassles if you get the wrong customs person unfortunately.

 

on this occasion it worked very well and i was lucky only spent a couple of days in customs and then straight though with not questions for me

 

Tom 

Think I'm planning to take your route Tom. 

Got a wakazshi on order from them . And will probably go in this for at

Age 

Date of manufacture 

Name of Smith 

Custom code

How much I paid in gbp 

Purpose (private collection)

 

Then copy of hozon all attached to front 

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Please be aware all, after a conversation with HMRC tariff control the previous tariff code has been superseded.

 

9706.0000.00 is now not a valid code apparently, This was both confirmed and denied by two seperate people at dhl today. one said it was valid, another said it was not. 

 

the new codes are as follows 

 

9706.1000.00     antiques over 250 years old

9706.9000.00    other

 

https://www.trade-tariff.service.gov.uk/headings/9706

 

seems like my order may have hit an issue with this as the change is the month or so.

 

obviously please do your own checking and research as finding concrete information here is a bit of a minefield

 

if you click date of trade on the link i provided and put december last year the code is valid, if you do feb this month you see the code isn't, it changed on the 1st of january 2022

 

 

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2 hours ago, Lareon said:

Please be aware all, after a conversation with HMRC tariff control the previous tariff code has been superseded.

 

9706.00.0000 is now not a valid code apparently, This was both confirmed and denied by two seperate people at dhl today. one said it was valid, another said it was not. 

 

the new codes are as follows 

 

9706.06.10.00.00     antiques over 250 years old

9706.06.90.00.00    other

 

https://www.trade-tariff.service.gov.uk/headings/9706

 

seems like my order may have hit an issue with this as the change is the month or so.

 

obviously please do your own checking and research as finding concrete information here is a bit of a minefield

 

if you click date of trade on the link i provided and put december last year the code is valid, if you do feb this month you see the code isn't, it changed on the 1st of january 2022

 

 

 

 

Tony,

Actually the code (and my suggested text) for antiques over 250 years is:

“Tariff harmonic code 9706.1000.00/ VAT 03001 rate 5%”.

 

You seem to have an unnecessary 06 inserted in there….

 

I have added the  VAT free text after that tariff code, as that code (9706.1000.00) comes with two VAT sub-codes (one for standard 20% and for the reduced 5%). 
 

As we want to be as clear and to be spoon feeding people just to be on the safe side, I suggest using the text above.

 

I am in the process of importing a sword now and if I encounter issues, I shall document them. In my text I am specifying the smith, the period (Nanbokucho), mentioning what Nanbokucho means (1336-1392), mentioning how many years ago this sword was made (c.650 years ago) using traditional methods and specify after words the sentence above (Tariff harmonic code 9706.1000.00/ VAT 03001 rate 5%).

 

So, no loose ends and spoon feeding the authorities every single piece of information that is relevant. I have used this method in the past and never had issues with authorities by virtue of my over-providing information. 

 

 

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There is no way to lose this. They are clearly not acting within the law, and you have valid exception on multiple grounds. Ethnograpic value, pre-1954, traditionally made etc etc.
I cannot see any way that the court will not grant you possession. That said, you need to print out and know ALL of the exemptions, and have a letter from the seller stating what it is, and if I were you, get the UK societies to look at the pics and also write a letter stating that is is clearly exempt.
You have some time. Make it a foolproof case, and then go after them for costs!

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2 hours ago, Brian said:

There is no way to lose this. They are clearly not acting within the law, and you have valid exception on multiple grounds. Ethnograpic value, pre-1954, traditionally made etc etc.
I cannot see any way that the court will not grant you possession. That said, you need to print out and know ALL of the exemptions, and have a letter from the seller stating what it is, and if I were you, get the UK societies to look at the pics and also write a letter stating that is is clearly exempt.
You have some time. Make it a foolproof case, and then go after them for costs!

 

Yup my thinking exactly. The only doubt in my mind is if they argue that it was legal to sieze for some other reason like the documents weren't exactly what they wanted or needed or something similar. Since I'm not contesting the items being legal to import I'm contesting the legality of the seizure.

Feels a little loose especially as there was no concrete reason for the seizure. Since the police were sent to me about importing "illegal swords" I think this gives me a basis that that is the reason.

 

I spent a fair bit of last night writing documentation with sources from swords of Imperial Japan and others etc. 

 

Will drop a line to token at some point and get a statement too.

 

I was hoping if bombard them with evidence they will drop it but I fear that won't be the case and it will go all the way to court now. 

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Just now, ChrisW said:

It's disgusting how they're trying to use scare tactics on you to give up so they can do as they please.


yes i didn't appreciate the parts of the letter trying to scare me financially into giving up, If i win i will ask for the same amount they are using against me in compensation £2500

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Is there an email address on that letter?
I may consider emailing them as a disgusted international collector, letting them know how ridiculous their persecution of law abiding citizens is to the rest of the world.
 

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Hi Tony,

You're at risk of overthinking this slightly - the prohibition is on importing certain illegal blade types, not legal blade types that are incorrectly documented. Out of interest, do you know what was written on the documentation attached to the outside of the package(s)? If you don't have them, you should get copies of this from Border Force as it is pertinent to your case. Also, copies of sales advertisements to show a connection between what you paid for and what arrived. This will hopefully show that you didn't knowingly import illegal blades which might have a bearing on any award of costs to the Border Force.

 

The swords involved are (I understand) a koto blade and a star - stamped RJT blade. I assume the RJT blade is signed - have you identified the RJT smith? Is the koto blade unsigned? Did it have authentication papers or other attribution from which you can point to a text book and say this is the guy (or these were the guys and none worked any later than 1954). Do you have oshigata of the signatures for either blade?

 

I would be tempted to marshall as much information as you can and send it off and try to get this knocked on the head before the hearing. Typically, if court matters can be resolved without wasting court time it is looked on more favourably than one party pushing a matter to the death when there is clear evidence that they have no case. That the taxpayers money is involved in this will also show Border Force in an unfavourable light. If you can show the Border Force that you are going to produce evidence in court that shows that the blades were made in Japan prior to 1954 or were antique then I would do so. This will also support you if you ask for an award of costs against Border Force, which you can stress that you very much will be doing. Make a note of any time spent marshalling information as this will be the basis on which your costs will be awarded. If you work for yourself and you can show your normal hourly rates, that too will be relevant as the two together help quantify the actual cost to you of dealing with this.

 

Sorry if that's all obvous stuff, but if you need anything by way of oshigata or text book entries to help date the blades, please let me/ us know and I'm sure you'll find plenty of people willing to help.

 

Edit - Sorry, just realised some details were listed at the top of the thread.

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Tony I think John has made an excellent point. From reading that document I'm confident you can win this case with knowledge, that border force don't seem to have. 

 

I absolutely belive that you should get in touch with Michael chairman of the Token society GB. And write an email to him describing him what's going on. 

 

Anytime I import a sword weather nihonto or iaito. I make sure that i have a backing of an organisation which should help me in case It was needed. Weather this is BKA ( British kendo association) or the Token society. But as a collector you should not need this when what you are doing is legal. 

 

Best of luck.

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