Labour told to compensate Britain’s duty free victims by European Parliament

Europe puts pressure on UK government to reimburse travellers whose cars and duty free goods were confiscated by customs officers at UK ports

Brussels 11 April — Ten victims of jobsworth customs officers today got the backing of the European Parliament in their claim for compensation and resolved to put pressure on Tony Blair to compensate them for the unlawful confiscation of their property.

The ten were victims of the arbitrary seizure of their vehicles, cigarettes and alcohol at British ports by customs officials who claimed they were smugglers.

Seizure was commonplace at British ports before the European Commission threatened to take the UK to the European Court of Justice for applying the law disproportionately. Directive 92/12/EEC says that private individuals may acquire any quantity of excise goods in one Member State and bring the goods to the UK without any formalities and without having to pay excise duties on the condition that the goods are intended strictly for the individuals’ use. The Commission took the view that although confiscation could be appropriate in cases of genuine for-profit fraud, the UK Government went further than was necessary in certain cases, i.e. in cases of irregular movements without a profit-seeking motive (and without any particular aggravating circumstances such as repeated offences or a clear criminal nexus).

Although the UK did a policy u-turn last year, the government have not returned one car, one packet of cigarettes or one bottle of wine to these victims of an unlawful application of the law.

Conservative MEP, Sir Robert Atkins, says: “Labour is behaving outrageously to these entirely innocent people. The government is like a convicted burglar refusing to return the swag. It is against natural justice. I am urging the Commission to take a serious, in-depth look at the situation in order to provide adequate redress for the individuals that had problems before the UK came into compliance with Directive 92/12.

The Chairman of the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee, Mr Libicki, backed Sir Robert and proposed a Parliament letter to the Commission calling them to exert pressure on the UK government to provide redress.

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