Anybody who uses light commercial vehicles, such as transit vans and pick ups, for smuggling alcohol and tobacco now face losing their vehicle on the first occasion they are caught. This policy is designed to tackle the continued and persistent use of certain types of vehicles for the commercial smuggling of alcohol and tobacco across the Channel.

Graham Hooker, Head of Operations Anti-smuggling said:
“From today criminals who use light commercial vehicles for smuggling alcohol or tobacco will lose them altogether. People who lend vans, pick ups, transits or similar vehicles to friends or relatives will also face tougher action. There will be no second chances. These types of vehicle are at the heart of cross-Channel smuggling and we are determined to remove them once and for all from those who are making a full time living at the expense of the honest taxpayer.
“As well as losing their vehicle and the confiscation of the smuggled goods, it could cost offenders their driving licence, liquor licence, lottery terminal, large fines or a jail sentence of up to seven years.
“People who smuggle alcohol and tobacco undermine honest businesses, this sort of activity is currently losing the Government more than 2.5 billion pounds of revenue every year which could be better spent on schools and hospitals.”
Notes for Editors

ight Commercial Vehicle is defined as a van, pick up, transit or similar.

Vehicle Owners

From tomorrow if you are caught using a light commercial vehicle for smuggling alcohol and tobacco, the conditions for getting it back will depend on the total revenue evaded.

Where the total revenue evaded using the seized vehicle exceeds the trade-in value of the vehicle it will not be returned to you, even if this is the first time you’ve been caught.

Where the total revenue evaded using the seized vehicle is less than the trade-in value of the vehicle, the vehicle may be offered back to you for a fee, provided it is the first time you have been caught smuggling. The fee will be an amount equal to 100% of the revenue evaded.

The policy was previously to return the vehicle to all first time offenders for a fee equal to 100% of the revenue evaded or the trade-in value of the vehicle, whichever is the lower.

Third Party Owners

When a vehicle is seized and the owner is not present at the time of interception, Customs will interview the owners in order to establish whether they are culpable, negligent or innocent.

Where Customs believe that the owner is party to the offence, the vehicle will not be restored. Where owners are deemed as negligent they will get the vehicle back only after payment of a sum equivalent to 50% of the revenue evaded. The policy was previously to charge 25% of the revenue evaded on the first occasion.

If any vehicle belonging to a third party is used to smuggle and transport illicit alcohol and tobacco for a second or subsequent time it may not be restored.

Rental Vehicles

At the moment these policy changes do not apply to vehicles hired out by car rental companies, but this policy is the subject of ongoing review. Currently where Customs have evidence that the company is continuing to rent vehicles to smugglers and they have done nothing to change this in response to Customs’ warnings, they will be charged a fee of 25% of the duty evaded if any of their vehicles are seized by Customs. Customs advise rental companies to ensure that their contracts make the hirer responsible for Customs’ charges and penalties and to be vigilant where payment is being made in cash or by using the credit card of a person not named on the contract as either the hirer or a driver .

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