EXCISE DUTY- seizure of vehicle – concealment in modification of tractor unit hard to get to – whether unreasonable to refuse restoration? No in circumstances – appeal dismissed
LONDON TRIBUNAL CENTRE
PRIVATE COMPANY "SEMGIDA" LIMITED Appellant
- and -
THE COMMISSIONERS FOR HER MAJESTY'S
REVENUE AND CUSTOMS Respondents
Tribunal: Adrian Shipwright (Chairman)
John N Brown CBE FCA CTA
Sitting in public in London on 11 December 2007
The Appellant did not appear
Sarabjit Singh, Counsel, instructed by the General Counsel and Solicitor for HM Revenue and Customs, for the Respondents
© CROWN COPYRIGHT 2007
Findings of Fact
Submissions of the Parties
"The Appellant disagrees with the decision of the Respondents not to restore the seized vehicle, but agrees to pay the excise duty of £7,998.14 and all other applicable duties related to the restoration of the seized vehicle, as the Appellant did not properly manage supervision so as to eliminate the possibility of smuggling occurring."
(1) Over a period of just three days, two of the Appellant's vehicles were intercepted and found to contain virtually identical concealments. One of the vehicles CDZ 706 had been welded, sealed and repainted in order to accommodate the concealments, and the floors are both vehicles were built down to create concealments of three to four inches in depth. The modification physically altered the external structure of the vehicles and access to the concealed spaces was obtained after seats and lockers were removed and through three cut out metal hatches on the floor inside the vehicles.
(2) These extensive alterations were in all probability carried out professionally by individuals with knowledge of the vehicles and with sufficient unsupervised access to the vehicles. The alterations would have taken time and necessitated the vehicles being taken out of service for a period due to the location of the concealments basis, their removal would have seriously weakened the floor of the vehicles made the vehicles are unsafe. It is highly unlikely that such work could have been carried out without the knowledge and involvement in the vehicles, ie the Appellant. The Appellant knows or ought to know about the day-to-day running of its business and it is unlikely that its vehicles were extensively adapted behind its back.
(3) It is also unlikely to be coincidence that two vehicles belonging to the Appellant would be adapted with two very similar concealment devices.
(4) It is likely that the Appellant was complicit in the attempt to smuggle excise goods into the UK using the Appellant's vehicles.
(5) The Respondents considered whether the vehicles could be offered for restoration under the terms of the Respondents' restoration policy for freight vehicles, but restoration was deemed inappropriate as the policy provided that vehicles seized would not normally be restored, unless the Respondents were satisfied that the owner of the vehicle had no knowledge of the adaptation.
(6) It was also to be noted that two of the vehicles had been adapted and both sent to the UK. The Respondents were entitled to act to protect the interests of legitimate trade and the protection of the revenue and therefore it was reasonable and proportionate not to offer the vehicles for restoration.
RELEASE DATE: 17 March 2008