Tuesday, September 8, 2015

La Linea

contributed by Ted Murphy, Partner, Baker & McKenzie LLP

As you may have seen in the news recently, the President of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina has been forced to resigned and was jailed over his alleged role in a multi-million dollar customs fraud scheme.  This scheme, referred to as "La Línea", involved payments of bribes by Guatemalan customs brokers to customs officials in exchange for lower duty rates on imported articles.  

Given the potential U.S. implications through the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)  all companies that exported articles to Guatemala in recent years should review their transactions to ensure that shipments were handled appropriately. 

In particular, it is important that companies review the controls in place over any ex-US customs brokers.  For example, when entering a new jurisdiction, companies should make sure that they understand upfront what import requirements apply to their goods (e.g., is an import license/permit required for the goods to be imported or not?) and what sort of duties & fees will be owed.  Companies should also take steps to vet any customs brokers or agents.  

All companies should take steps to audit their brokers or agents against these requirements.  Implementing reasonable steps like these would go along way to preventing expensive FCPA actions from occurring.

Ted Murphy
Baker & McKenzie LLP
815 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Tel:  +1 202 452 7069
Mobile:  +1 703 867 8318
Fax:  +1 202 416 7069

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