recent Saturday in January at JFK Airport, two British travelers
coming into the US were stopped and searched by US Customs and
Border Protection in what was likely a routine random inspection.
revealed that the travelers had in their baggage eleven antique
Fabergé ornaments. The travelers carried invoices for
the items showing their aggregate value to be over $250,000.
According to the travelers, an art-dealer and his female co-traveler,
they were headed to an auction house with the items, likely
to put them up for sale.
the nature of the infraction - it was found that the art-dealer
was aware of the requirement to declare on entry and had even
enlisted the assistance of a customs broker in the past to do
so - the Fabergé items were seized by US Customs officials
and the travelers were denied entry into the US on the Visa
Waiver program. They returned to the UK the next day. The travelers
will not be able to enter the US under the Visa Waiver program
in the future due to their failure to declare the items upon
entry into the US.
The OFO Public
Affairs Liaison at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Lucille
Cirillo, said that often travelers fail to declare items because
they “don’t want to be bothered” but the motives
for neglecting to do so run the gamut from ignorance to malfeasance.
What they should have done, she clarified, was to inform the
CBP officers that they had items to declare. The CBP would have
advised them of the procedures they should then follow and held
the items under Customs control until they had been properly
cleared for entry into the USA. CBP officers cannot assist passengers
in completing a declaration properly, which is why in cases
like these Officer Cirillo advises travelers to enlist the help
of a qualified customs broker.
arrival at the destination country isn’t the only consideration
regarding customs when doing a hand-carry. This was illustrated
in a recent situation experienced by an ICEFAT member company,
Atthowe Fine Art Services in San Francisco. Atthowe was providing
the US-side services for a San Francisco museum that was expecting
items to be returned from a Canadian borrower. The return shipment
involved some items that were being returned via hand-carry,
and Atthowe had all the crew and vehicles ready to meet the
courier upon her arrival.
prior to the flight’s departure, Atthowe received a distressed
phone call. The courier was being held back from boarding her
flight because the Canadian shipper (not an ICEFAT member company),
who had arranged for her transport and documents for departure
from Canada, had not prepared the US Customs pre-clearance of
the hand-carry shipment prior to the courier boarding the plane.
was also accompanying crates that were already loaded onto the
lower-deck of the plane she was intended to take. She was in
a tough position as she needed to board the plane to accompany
the lower-deck crates to her institution, but she could not
board with the objects she was hand-carrying. Ultimately, a
connection was made from the lending institution to US Congresswoman
Barbara Lee, who personally called the US Customs Office and
resolved the matter.
consideration is export clearance of hand-carry shipments. It
is a commonly held idea that Customs have no interest in what
is taken out of the country however there is a procedure and
process in place for the export clearance of goods. In the event
that hand-carry goods have not been cleared on export, it is
likely that on re-import they may be classified as a definitive
import and Customs may assess them for applicable Duty and Taxes.
The export clearance is a simple procedure that can be easily
managed by your ICEFAT agent.
instances demonstrate how critical the participation of a qualified
art shipping agent and customs broker is in circumstances of
transporting artwork, even when it is just a small object being
carried by a courier. These agents are aware of the specific
procedures required to have the shipment safely pass through
all checkpoints in order to arrive at its destination safely,
handed as little as possible and without delays.
Bouchard, Operations Manager
Crozier Fine Arts, New York
of the stolen Faberge items
the stolen Faberge items
In researching this article US Customs and Border Protection
advised that since the seizure and their original press-release
they have discovered the Fabergé items were stolen. ICE
(Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is currently working to
return the stolen items to their rightful owner(s.) If anyone
reading this article recognizes the items or has additional
information they should contact US Customs and Border Protection.
The original USCBP press release concerning the Fabergé
Seizure can be found at: