On October 3, 2017, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced a settlement of civil fraud claims brought under the False Claims Act against a garment wholesaler in Pennsylvania for ignorning repeated warning signs that its importer business partner was engaged in a scheme to underpay customs duties on imported garments from China sold to the wholesaler.
From the press release (full text here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/pr/acting-manhattan-us-attorney-announces-settlement-civil-fraud-claims-against-garment)
U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “As this settlement makes evident, companies purchasing imported goods cannot turn a blind eye to fraud committed by their business partners. We will be vigilant in holding accountable all parties who engage in or contribute to fraudulent conduct.”
According to the press release, the wholesaler should have known that discounts of 75% or more for imported garments by the importer were highly suggestive of fraud. In addition to paying $1 million in damages, the wholesaler was also required to implement a written compliance policy to educate employees and identify red flags in fraud in import transactions.
This case is just the latest example of a US company being fined by Customs in this kind of transaction. Any US buyer in this situation should consult with experienced Customs attorneys to vet their transactions and evaluate their own compliance programs.