Stopped by Customs: jeweller wanted to bring 4.5 kilos of gold jewellery into the country illegally Blümel: “With seizures like this, Customs is sticking up for taxpayers who abide by the rules!”
Silence is golden, goes the saying. And an Austrian who arrived at Vienna International Airport on Sunday 6.6.2021 with a friend on a flight from Istanbul clearly wanted to apply that maxim literally. When asked by vigilant customs officials to undergo a customs check, he spoke only to ask where customs was. He did not feel it worth mentioning that he had 4.5 kg of gold with him.
When questioned by airport customs officials, the man - of Turkish origin - merely stated that he had cigarettes in his luggage. After his suitcase had been x-rayed, the Austrian citizen was asked to open his case and his hand luggage. 200 cigarettes were indeed, as declared, in the suitcase.
But then the traveller “remembered” that he was also carrying jewellery. Upon further inspection of the hand luggage, officials removed a security seal issued by Turkish customs. This was followed by 4.5 kg of diverse items of gold jewellery.
Exported in accordance with regulations from Turkey, “imported” unannounced into Austria
The security seal is a sign that the jewellery had been exported in accordance with regulations from Turkey. But the goods were not actively declared to customs in Austria, which amounts to an illegal import.
Once all the items that he had brought with him were on view, the 44-year-old jeweller presented an invoice from a Turkish gold merchant for the jewellery totalling some 176,500 euros. He also presented a customs document that is used as a movement certificate in trade between EU members and Turkey to benefit from lower customs rates. He was aiming to sell the jewellery in his shop in Vienna.
The price of gold has risen steadily in recent years, but jewellery produced in Turkey is comparatively low-priced, in part due to the lower wage levels there: as a result, the jeweller must have found it all too tempting to pick up the goods on offer there at such a moderate price.
By not making a customs declaration, however, he was avoiding the EUR 35,395 in Austrian import taxes that would have been due on this import.
The jewellery was seized by customs; and criminal proceedings have been initiated against the jeweller. The maximum penalty in such a case could be a fine of EUR 70,790 in addition to forfeiture of the jewellery itself.
“We view ourselves as a partner to all Austrian businesses that they can depend on,” declared Finance Minister Gernot Blümel, who went on to stress: “However, in the spirit of fairness and equity in tax affairs in Austria, we in turn expect that everyone abides by the rules and laws that are in place.” The Finance Minister paid tribute to the customs officials working at Vienna International Airport, saying “with seizures like this one, the customs service is playing an important role in systematically penalising violations of our laws - honest taxpayers should never have to pay twice over!”