Monday, March 24, 2014

Surprise! Tom Winkowski Transfers From U.S. Customs and Border Protection to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

In a move that surprised many in the international trade community, Tom Winkowski, former Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), effective immediately, is now in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, popularly known as "ICE". Mr. Winkwoski's new official title is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. Mr. Winkowski had over 30 years of knowledge and experience with U.S. Customs, including what many refer to as 'the good old days' pre-9/11 under the U.S. Customs Service when he was a Port Director in Los Angeles and Miami.

ICE is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in offices in all 50 states and 47 foreign countries. The "Mission" of ICE is to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration. The agency has an annual budget of more than $5.7 billion dollars, primarily devoted to its two principal operating components - Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). As stated in ICE's current 'Strategic Plan' are topics already familiar to Mr. Winkowski:

The four key priorities for the agency's future:

1. Prevent terrorism and enhance security
2. Protect the borders against illicit trade, travel and finance
3. Protect the borders through smart and tough interior immigration enforcement
4. Construct an efficient, effective agency

This move by Mr. Winkowski, one of CBP's most decorated and accomplished executives, comes soon after CBP received its new Commissioner. Mr. R. Gil Kerlikowske was nominated by President Obama, and sworn in on March 7, 2014, as Commissioner of CBP. CBP has 60,000 employees, and budget of $12.4 billion. Most recently, Mr. Kerlikowske served as Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He brings four decades of law enforcement and drug policy experience to his new position at CBP. He formerly served nine years as the Chief of Police for Seattle, Washington.

Commissioner Kerlikowske will deliver an address at the National Customs Brokers and Forwarder Association's Annual Meeting held in Las Vegas, Nevada, from April 6-10, 2014. We will see if 40 years of drug enforcement will help CBP properly rebalance its 200 year, proud history of facilitating international trade rather than hindering it under the guise of "national security".

Please post your comments below, or contact me directly.

Peter Quinter, Partner
Customs and International Trade Law Group
GrayRobinson, P.A.
1221 Brickell Avenue, 16th Floor
Miami, Florida 33131
Office (305) 416-6960
Mobile (954) 270-1864
Skype Peter.Quinter1

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Importing Gold, U.S. Customs, and the Department of Homeland Security

In 2013 and so far in 2014, there has been a significant increase in seizures of imported gold shipments, and arrest and criminal prosecution of persons involved in the importation, transportation, assaying, and smelting of gold. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) routinely examine, and sometimes seize, gold as it is imported into the United States, for violations of false declarations (18 USC 542). Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) often investigation, and sometime arrest, persons in the gold business for smuggling (18 USC 545) and money laundering (18 USC 1956).

I will provide a description and explanation for the U.S. Government's sudden, keen interest in precious metals, especially gold, at the annual meeting of the International Precious Metals Institute's annual conference in Orlando, Florida, on June 7-10, 2014. We will discuss what ICE calls "trade-based money laundering", and how to avoid problems with both CBP and ICE.

Contact me with any questions or post a comment below.

Peter Quinter, Chair
Customs and International Trade Law Group
GrayRobinson law firm
1221 Brickell Ave.
Suite 1600
Miami, Florida 33131

office (305) 416-6960
mobile (954) 270-1864
Skype Peter.Quinter1

Is Your Lawyer a 'Real' Customs Lawyer? 10 Questions for Which Every Customs Lawyer Should Know the Answers

It is unfortunate how many times I hear the same sad story from a new client who has decided to fire his or her prior lawyer, and has decided to hire a 'real' customs and international trade attorney.  Customs and International Trade attorneys have specialized knowledge and experience for matters involving the import and export of merchandise generally, and particularly in interpreting the customs regulations in Title 19 of the United States Code (USC), Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), and interacting with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Here are 10 Questions you can ask your lawyer to know if he or she is a 'real' customs lawyer, a pretender, or just someone who dabbles in this area of the law.

A real customs lawyer should know the answers to all these questions without hesitation. If the lawyer you are interviewing passes this test, you can bet he or she is a 'real' customs lawyer.

1.  What does the acronym C.I.T. mean?

2.  What is the allowed maximum number of days after the liquidation of an entry for an importer to file a Protest with CBP?

3.  What is the maximum number of days allowed by CBP's Fines, Penalties and Forfeitures Office to file a Petition after a seizure of merchandise by CBP without having to request an extension?

4.  Can someone appeal the denial of a Global Entry application?

5.  What does the acronym CROSS mean?

6. What are at least 5 free trade agreements with the United States?

7.  What is required in a prior disclosure to CBP?

8.  Are buying or selling commissions dutiable?

9.  How many days does an importer have to destroy or export merchandise refused entry into the United States by the FDA in order to avoid being assessed a liquidated damages claim by CBP?

10. What does the acronym C-TPAT mean?

Other indications that someone is a 'real' customs lawyer are membership in the Customs Law Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Customs and International Trade Bar Association (CITBA), plus selection and recognition in legal directories such as the International Trade: Customs section of Chambers USA.  Many real customs lawyers previously worked for the U.S. Customs Service or CBP in the Office of Chief Counsel of in the Office of Regulations and Rulings earlier in their careers before joining law firms.

There is no single test, but the above questions should certainly help anyone looking to find a 'real' customs lawyer.

Post a comment below or contact me directly at:

Peter Quinter, Chair
Customs and International Trade Law Group
GrayRobinson, P.A.
1221 Brickell Ave.
16th Floor
Miami, FL 33131
office (305) 416-6960
mobile (954) 270-1864
Skype Peter.Quinter1