TIR CARNETS SHAKED CUSTOMS AND CARRIERS
Sixty one unpaid TIR carnets for BGN1,357,000 on transit imports from Turkey through Kapitan Andreevo are on their way to spoil the good relationships between the Customs Agency and the Bulgarian branch of the International Association of Carriers (AEBTRI). The tension arose from AEBTRI's unwillingness to pay up the above-mentioned sum to the budget. The liability dates back to 1999 when sugar products were imported from Turkey and the customs ordered compulsory collection of the money from the State Receivables Collection Agency. When the TIRs from our Southern neighbour passed the Bulgarian border in 1999, they presented carnets issued by AEBTRI. Unfortunately, they had been settled with forged seals and the firms which were to receive the goods turned out to be phantoms. The blunder is described in details by the former head of the Customs Agency Emil Dimitrov in his book Customs. Three years later neither the involved servants are punished, nor the customs dues are paid.And yet, after the blunder had already been revealed, the Customs Agency decided to seek its rights from AEBTRI. Unfortunately for the treasury, the Association absolutely refused any voluntary payments. Then the management of the Customs Office - Svilengrad (which is responsible for the Kapitan Andreevo check-point), applied the regulations of Article 211 of the Customs Act and issued orders for compulsory execution to AEBTRI on each of the 61 cases. According to the Customs Convention for Transportation of Goods with TIR Carnets, which was enforced in 1975, AEBTRI guarantees all transit transportations, carried out by Bulgarian or foreign individuals or entities. The carnet allows the carrier to transport its goods through the territory of those states which have signed the documents and thus to avoid any physical control on the freight. The Associations on its turn guarantees through its national subdivisions that the customs dues will be paid on the freight's delivery at the last customs office in the row. That's way AEBTRI issues the so-called carnets to the transportation firms for the humble sum of CHF70.According to information of the Association, 200,000 such documents are issued in Bulgaria a year, and over 4,500 companies are making use of the relieved transportation regime. The operation is considered concluded when the customs office in the territory of the country (which is receiver of the goods), informs the check-point (which has passed the freight) that the liabilities to the budget have been paid.The smuggling case at Kapitan Andreevo is additionally complicated by the fact that the carriers claimed against the compulsory collection decree first in front of the Plovdiv Regional Customs Directorate and then in front of court. Yet according to the Customs Act the compulsory collection cannot be freezed by court debates and so there are no legal obstacles preventing freezing of AEBTRI's accounts.In the meantime the conflict grew international. Early this month the International Union for Car Transport (which member is AEBTRI) threatened to exclude Bulgaria from the TIR system if the accounts of the Bulgarian branch of AEBTRI were freezed. This practically means that the firms, transporting goods from Europe to Bulgaria, will have to pay cash or bank guarantees and undergo inspections at every foreign border they pass through. The Head of the Bulgarian branch of AEBTRI expects new dramas to unfold around this year's unpaid carnets. Some of the most striking cases are for import of TV-sets through the Kulata check-point for BGN180,000. 25 TIRs have passed through the Bulgarian-Greek border in 2002, transporting chicken drumsticks to the customs offices in Varna, Gorna Oriahovitza, Iliantzi and Kremikovtzi. Yet the carnets, accompanying the cargoes, have still not been paid. Especially interesting is the case of the import of Chinese goods for the markets and stores of Suhodol, Iliantzi and Gorubliane. Apart from using forged seals on the carnets, the customs had been presented orders of payment, certified with forged BULBANK's seals and signatures.