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Smuggling: Shipping

Question for Treasury

UIN HL4898, tabled on 18 January 2023

To ask His Majesty's Government what steps they take to catch smugglers who alter bills of lading at sea; and how many such cases they have identified in the last two years.

Answered on

1 February 2023

HMG has robust anti-smuggling controls and dynamic intelligence capabilities which prevent, deter, and detect illegal movements of goods and enable us to enforce criminal and civil sanctions against those responsible for those movements.

HMRC also conducts post-clearance customs audits and other compliance interventions, including measures against serious non-compliance and fraud, including high-risk trader monitoring; disruption activity; and criminal investigations when appropriate.

When goods are imported or exported a customs declaration is required which is submitted electronically into HMRC systems and constitutes the legal declaration of the goods to HMRC as the UK's customs authority. Bills of lading are commercial documents, although HMRC may ask for them as supporting evidence as part of a wider inspection of goods. HMRC does not hold information on the number of bills of lading which have been altered.

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