liege airport
Liege Airport

A court in Liège has heard how customs officers at the city’s airport, LGG, “overwhelmed by the massive influx of Chinese e-commerce”, clamped down on importers, accusing many of fraud, only to lose many of the cases when they came to court.

Ironically, investigations by OLAF, the European anti-fraud office, led to Belgium being fined €251m in 2021 for failing to take sufficient action against import fraud on its territory.

Recently, LGG-based ECDC Logistics, set up by a Chinese businessman, won 12 judgements against Belgian Customs after being accused of the undervaluation of imported goods, representing several million euro in unpaid duties. Another LGG-based firm, BeCargo, reportedly won four legal battles, three of which were won due to procedural errors.

And last week, the Liège Criminal Court cleared Liège Cargo Agency (LCA) and its CEO, Eric Bruckmann, of customs clearance offences.

The court heard testimony from several customs officers who highlighted the “chaos” that gripped Liege Airport at the start of the boom in e-commerce from China, the main issue being how to value the huge quantities of low-value goods arriving.

It emerged that customs had accepted that the value of goods arriving from China would be established at between 30% and 40% of their selling price on e-commerce platforms – a method later rejected. This caused importers some confusion, it was claimed.

LCA’s lawyer commented: “Operators’ trust was misled by customs: they were allowed to do this for a considerable period of time, only to be told years later that the opposite was true”.

According to a Belgian media report, Mr Bruckmann is scheduled to return to court in January to answer other charges brought by the customs authorities.

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