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09-12-2015 10:48 am  #1

Tobacco seized - Gatwick


I've never had any dealings with the Border Force in my life and would like some advice please...

My story is...I travelled back from Tenerife with 1.5kg of tobacco. I had assumed that Tenerife was part of Spain and therefore EU, so went through the arrivals from EU exit at Gatwick Airport. Unfortunately not. I hadn't done my research and it was a genuine error. I had 1kg in a duty free carrier bag (bought at departure time) and 500g in my luggage (I'd bought it on arrival at the airport in Tenerife). So, apart from the tobacco in my luggage I was pretty open about it. Anyway, it was seized as you'd expect as I had more than the 250g allowed. Incidentally, I was travelling with my partner who had too many cigarettes and hers were seized too. We were dealt with separately in terms of being issued forms individually but at the same table.

I know I can't really have a problem with my tobacco being seized as rules are rules and ignorance isn't a defence apparently. However, I do have a problem with the officer who dealt with me. He didn't identify himself initially and didn't tell me why I'd been pulled aside. We had a discussion around the table where you get searched. I didn't record it as I didn't think there would be a problem. He then told me the limit for the Canary Islands. That's when I realised there was a problem. I told him that the tobacco was for personal use, as it was, and we'd incorrectly assumed that Tenerife was part of the EU. So, he seized the tobacco and issued a BOR156 and BOR162. I asked him what the appeals procedure was and he said we could challenge in court. When I challenged him as to why he didn't identify himself he replied 'Who do you think I am'. I also asked him to explain the legal implications of the BOR162 warning letter. He read out the 'Warning' section 3 times and when I said I still didn't understand the legal implications (I can read but am not a lawyer) he said 'How many times do I have to tell you'. I was shaking at this point. The intimidation had my hand shaking so much I struggled to sign the warning letter. He also said he wouldn't tell HMRC and would record what I said about it being a mistake. I never saw his notes so I have no idea what he recorded. He also gave methe Notice 1 and Notice 12A as I was leaving. I signed the seizure information notice before I'd seen them without realising what they were.

So, as I didn't deal with the situation very well at all and didn't get reasonable answers at the time, my questions are:
1. What is the minimum level of information and conduct you can expect from a border force officer?
2. Is the issuing of a BOR162 standard procedure or does it have larger implications?
3. Could I have refused to sign the warning letter and if so would might have happened?
4. Does the BOR162 mean I am now considered a common smuggler? The amounts we had were above the non EU limits but within the personal use limits as far as I am aware so I have a real problem with that label.
5. Is the BOR162 like a caution you get from the police and does it show up on searches etc.
6. How long is the BOR162 on your record?
7. What can I expect in future when passing through customs? Am I likely to be pulled on a regular basis now and have items seized?

I also have other concerns. The airport in Tenerfie didn't advise on the limits to the UK despite requesting my boarding pass. The airline didn't advise on limits prior to landing. The border force officer basically walked through the EU gate with me (slightly ahead but directly in front) before pulling me presumably after I'd passed a theshold. There were three clear opportunities to prevent the error but the annoying one was the border force officer had very likely spotted my duty free carrier bag hence targetting me (like I said the 1kg of tobacco was hardly hidden) when he could have advised me before I went through the wrong gate.

Other info about me...I am a UK citizen and travel abroad about 4 times a year to EU and non EU destinations. I've never been stopped by the border force before. The trip the goods were seized on was 3 nights and happened in the last month.

I am very worried not knowing what the implications are of what just happened and what might happen next so would appreciate some advice.

Thanks in advance.



09-12-2015 12:55 pm  #2

Re: Tobacco seized - Gatwick

when i lived in dover,i knew people who travelled 5 or 6 times a day,and recived numerous warning letters,no action was taken as they only had small amounts each time.

it will be on record that you have had goods seized,and been isuued with a warning letter plus the notice 1 and 12a,so now you are expected to stick within guidelines in future as you have no excuse.

write it off as a loss,duty free goods are not that epensive so no real loss,its a chance many people take when visiting tenerief or other none eu countries.

the shops are no obliged to advise you on amounts ect, and no use complaining to ukbf as you just get a coffee machine reply,and you have no evidence of the ukbf being in polite ect.

put it down as an experience to learn from,next time you travel be prepared with a voice recorder and sot.

Please ensure you do not divulge any information which could identify you as Border Force will use your posts here as evidence against you in court.
Better to live one day as a lion than a thousand days as a sheep'


10-12-2015 1:09 pm  #3

Re: Tobacco seized - Gatwick

Thanks for the reply warrior.

If you aren't used to these things then they can be pretty traumatic. I'm not too fussed about the tobacco in all honesty, like you say the money isn't that great. I am more concerned about the treatment from the border force officer. Their Notice 1 says 'as a traveller, you have the right to expect our officers to be couteous, impartial and behave with integrity'. I believe he fell very short of that. I also think you're right, I'll get a standard response that implies no officers do anything wrong and all members of the public are liars, especially since I have no recording.

I need to draw a line under it as it has been affecting my health. In future I think I'll just walk through the something to declare exit. That way if I make a mistake again they can only charge me the duty but not accuse me of dishonesty.

Thanks again.


     Thread Starter

10-12-2015 8:33 pm  #4

Re: Tobacco seized - Gatwick

He also said he wouldn't tell HMRC and would record what I said about it being a mistake

dont beleive a word,you may get a penalty notice,you may not.

But if you feel really ahrd done by and want to put a complaint in,go ahead straight away,as if you wait until after you recieve a penalty they will say you only complained because you got the penalty.

I have sent numerous complaints in,once i even had a customs officer refuse to give me her id and even had the recording of her blatently refusing,but still got fobbed off ha ha.

Please ensure you do not divulge any information which could identify you as Border Force will use your posts here as evidence against you in court.
Better to live one day as a lion than a thousand days as a sheep'


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