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UK Import Issue - Border force Seizure and Court Case


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On 4/27/2022 at 5:22 PM, Gakusee said:

The Token Society will be ready to assist in enquiries and help members deal with law enforcement and clarify the regulatory framework. In fact, the Society committee is intending to summarise the regulatory statements and interpretations as a brief non-binding guidance & tips document. 

Ownership of an exempt antique should not be an offence. Theoretically, almost any antique could be used as a weapon, so emphasis here needs to be given to the nature of the item, its age, its purpose, its manufacture and its physical dimensions and characteristics (with regard to the exempted items in law) and evidence all of the aforementioned with third-party documentation. 

Glad to hear this Michael.

 

I hate to say it but Tony's situation could actually benefit the overall UK collectors community, as it has clearly highlighted the flaws in border forces understanding of law. Suffice to say I and others have successfully imported blades from Japan recently, which shows how inconsistent their understanding actually is. 

 

And border force losing this case ( which I'm hoping they will) , would cost them financially and make them reevaluate their decisions. 

 

Regards

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A few years ago when I was still Curator of Oriental Arms and Armour at the Royal Armouries Museum I was contatcted by a Law Officer for HM Customs and Excise with regard to shipments of Chinese, so-called, katana. They had already cottoned on to printing that they were made by 'traditional methods' on the packaging as well as saying 'Made in China'. I made a point that if a certain M.P. had not interfered in the legal wording there would be no problem in stopping the import of Chinese junk but unfortunately the definition decided upon passed into law. In the end it was the claim that they were genuine 'samurai swords' that was their downfall when I pointed out there were no samurai in China.  I'm pleased to say the whole container full was seized and destroyed.

Ian Bottomley

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Just think of all the lives saved by not allowing people to own cheap swords.
There could have been anarchy. It's a good thing that HMCE was able to save the public from itself and now everyone is safe.
God only knows what could have happened if that container had made it to the open market. I know that cheap swords and knives are a gateway weapon, leading to even uglier and more dangerous pointy stuff later in life.
Just look at places like Iraq and Afghanistan and Sudan etc..where youngsters are exposed to edged weapons from a young age, and the massacres that ensue.
Next is to remove all access to poor quality chef's knives. We all know that it leads to poor cooking skills and just unpalatable food.
Ian, I think you guys probably have to keep constant tabs on the staff working in the various museum armories in case the access to these starts to degrade their sanity.

Brian
On a particularly skeptical Monday
 

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A quick update for all.

The process for the first seizure has moved on to the appeals process on border force's decision.

This is a much better system and lets you speak to someone with a name for the first time.

Basically it is my belief up until this point nothing I could of done would have affected the outcome. Now that I can have a dialogue with someone, things are progressing.

I'm still in the middle of this process so I will leave out any information or inferences from it until after I've had a result but I've found some interesting information out that will most likely help people in the future.

As a side note I've contacted A curator of Asian Art and had them write me a letter about the items from a place of authority. I would of done this in the UK but I did it from America as it has more weight due to being where the items were sold. (odd I know)
This should be enough to swing the balance in my favor but as with everything so far. we will see.

By the way, I had to prove I was a member of To-Ken with bank invoices and the date I joined. 

Like I said I will write a proper update when I get my decision which I'm hoping will be favorable if not then It will go to tribunal. Then I have to decide whether to continue with the court case as this is a separate matter. 
 

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30 minutes ago, Lareon said:

A curator of Asian Art and had them write me a letter about the items from a place of authority. I would of done this in the UK but I did it from America as it has more weight due to being where the items were sold. (odd I know)
This should be enough to swing the balance in my favor but as with everything so far. we will see.

 

This is likely to be the key piece of evidence. Hopefully this will be enough to have them release it, but if not I'm sure it'll be very valuable in court.

 

In my (limited) experience, these people are quite readily persuaded by expert opinions given from a position of authority (which they recognise as valid).

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@Lareonthanks for the update Tony. 

 

glad were getting somewhere with this. 

 

Did you get any idea of why and how they seized the second blade which had complete import info on there? Did they have a marker on your address at all. 

Thanks 

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Good news Tony - looking forward to your conclusions.

 

Paz - this item, a tsuba, came from E-sword and the stickers and the values noted on the invoice might have helped going into GB but thinking of this among a pile of boxes at a United States Post Office gives me nightmares!!

-t

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Once this appeal is finished I'll write a whole thing explaining what I've found out. There's been a lot of back and forth since the last update with borderforce.ill include why the items are seized and what sort of thing they will accept as evidence etc. I just want to make sure everything goes through ok before I write it all.

 

But since you ask. Simply the previous import being seized led to the second seizure from what I gather. An npsu officer told me once you have one seizure most likely all your packages will be checked and under much stricter scrutiny.

I've not received communication about the second seizure over the initial letter. I contacted them today to enquire about it and they have an internal deadline to get back to me mid June......

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Appeal 1 has been Successful and the items will be restored to me. 

second set of items has been refused by Borderforce and has now gone to appeal as well. 
 

Hopefully this will also be succesful on my part. 

 

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I think the sheer weight of documentation that i had provided, also what seemed to be key in this one was a seperate letter from the auction house saying they believed the items to be genuine. 

 

strangely the letter from the expert on the second set of items was not accepted but maybe that will change at appeal. As in my appeal letter I pointed out their credentials and that they were an expert. 
 

It is really hit and miss it seems. 

They've asked for a certificate or statement of authenticity on the second set of items.

I will await speaking to the appeals officer as you can actually speak to them to resolve issues where as the officers do not even provide a name and seem to just blanket refuse everything.

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Well the first set of items i sent a letter from the auction house just saying to the best of their knowledge they believe them to be of a certain age and traditionally made and this was accepted.

The second set of items had the "Director of Asian Art and Senior Specialist"  send a letter showing that the four items were genuine and antique.

The reply from this one was they couldn't take them at their word.


Basically until you get to appeals I think they just follow some script and will just refute everything.
Will just await the appeal and see what's happening 

 

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On 4/30/2022 at 10:16 AM, Paz said:

Glad to hear this Michael.

 

I hate to say it but Tony's situation could actually benefit the overall UK collectors community, as it has clearly highlighted the flaws in border forces understanding of law. Suffice to say I and others have successfully imported blades from Japan recently, which shows how inconsistent their understanding actually is. 

 

And border force losing this case ( which I'm hoping they will) , would cost them financially and make them reevaluate their decisions. 

 

Regards

 

Late reply, but just been thinking about this.

 

In contradiction, it may actually make matters worse.

 

Imagine customs officers making a big deal about dealing with the import of Japanese swords, the headaches involved and the hassles.

 

Wouldn't want them to make life easy for themselves and just ban ALL Japanese sword imports:(

 

 

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You also state that you understand the reason that BF seized the swords was: “due to the
nature of the goods”, and you continue: “If this is the case then there is a valid exception on
the goods. “They can’t be seized due to this fact as they meet exceptions stated in the act”.
I would respectfully point out that any sword with a curved blade over 50cm in length can
legally be seized at import by BF, and that the sword would remain seized until BF was
satisfied that the strict criteria for a permitted defence had been attained and proven.

Page 4 / 10

If BF may consider that a permitted defence for importing the sword is satisfactorily proven, a
decision to exceptionally return the sword can be made under Section 152 of CEMA.



The first set of items are going to be released to me soon but i wanted to point this bit of information out that i received

When the swords were first seized they were seized due to "the nature of the goods"
I responded that the nature of the goods was antiques and met legal requirements for import.
in my final letter from borderforce on this matter with their final decision, this was one of the sections.

 

This basically means you can't really appeal the legality of the seizure as they have the legal right to seize it.

 

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Isn't that the same as saying that the sword over 50cm did not satisfy BF , that it was imported legally or had sufficient evidence to prove it fell In sword law section exemptions ie. Antique, over 100 years made traditionally ect. 

 

In which case that would be correct that they could seize the sword. 

 

It's a funny law considering I can import an stainless steel wakizashi which is under 50cm made in China. 

 

Regards 

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  • 4 weeks later...

The appeal has been successful for the second set of items.

once I have received them I will share with the community! 

I will be posting a new article in the forum that includes all the issues and steps I had to take for reference, maybe it can be pinned to the board for others to see if they have the same issue.

I have been warned though that all future imports will now come under the same scrutiny, so once you have a seizure or two you will have more issues.

Tony

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1 minute ago, Paz said:

Good news Tony. 

 

About the scrutiny.....does this mean there going to be more strict in general ? Even before seizure. 

 

The scrutiny is for myself and I believe I will be held to a higher degree of evidence required at the point of import. 

Basically if I don't want them seized I need to probably do a lot of leg work in the documentation.
The biggest issue so far has been the shipping companies loose wording on the packaging. 

The second seizure i had i included a lot of information in the import packet, to be honest i thought it would be fine after the first lot but the shipping company on the label wrote 4 x swords. and even though the documentation with it was all good they flagged it. I barely supplied any extra information on the second import because it was all there and it passed the appeal process basically just on the original information. I sent some extra photos of the items highlighting some things like ages on nakago etc but borderforce have zero knowledge of swords so basically it's all paperwork that can be rubber stamped. 

 
 

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I wonder if there's a greater focus on swords by HMRC now?

 

I'm trying to EXPORT a sword (all the way to France!) and its been with UK customs for over a week.  Some of the delay is down to UPS being useless, also their customer service are a waste of time; they just make-it-up as they go along when you ask what's happening and where it is.  Therefore, I don't know the real story yet, but when it eventually gets to France (or gets back to me, or gets impounded), I'll post an update in a separate thread, so as not to hijack Tony's.

 

I'm just lucky that I have a very patient, understanding buyer!

 

 

 

 

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29 minutes ago, FZ1 said:

I wonder if there's a greater focus on swords by HMRC now?

 

I'm trying to EXPORT a sword (all the way to France!) and its been with UK customs for over a week.  Some of the delay is down to UPS being useless, also their customer service are a waste of time; they just make-it-up as they go along when you ask what's happening and where it is.  Therefore, I don't know the real story yet, but when it eventually gets to France (or gets back to me, or gets impounded), I'll post an update in a separate thread, so as not to hijack Tony's.

 

I'm just lucky that I have a very patient, understanding buyer!

 

 

 

 

I hope that goes through Jon. Did you have tons of paperwork to complete with it ? 

 

 

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Just the stuff that UPS requested Paz (commercial invoice, etc) because I didn't think it'd be an issue with exporting. I'm probably just being paranoid - its more likely just a paperwork cock-up between UPS and HMRC!

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