The Best Defense Is a Good Business Attorney

What To Do If Customs Says You've Violated Weapons Export Laws

The idea that your company might have violated weapons export laws can sound like something out of a terrible movie. However, even businesses that aren't fundamentally arms-dealing operations can run afoul of these laws. If the government sends you a notice of a violation, you'll want to consult with a customs and trade attorney as soon as possible. Here is what they'll likely tell you to do.

Gather Documents

More than anything, you want to understand how this could have happened. Your documents will tell you a lot about whether the government is barking up the right tree or if someone within your business made a major mistake.

Foremost, you want to know what the offending shipments contained. A surprising number of products and materials run afoul of laws banning the export of weapons. The sale of software to countries that sponsor terrorism, for example, is often illegal. Similar rules can apply to fertilizers that are chemical precursors to explosives. Microchips are an area of increasing concern.

Secondly, you want to know where the shipments went. If someone in the chain broke the law, you want to find out who did it. A recipient might run a front company or act as a middleman for transferring the shipment to a prohibited country.

Finally, make copies of everything. You want copies of all the manifests, emails, letters, and contracts. Also, copy every notice from the government and give them to a customs attorney as soon as possible.

Full Disclosure

Whatever led to this situation is bad. You will have a better chance of the brunt not falling on you if you fully disclose everything. Cooperate as faithfully as you can manage using the resources at your disposal.

However, always use your customs attorney as a conduit for your cooperation. If you need to tell the government something or provide them with evidence, talk to your customs and trade attorney first. They can then advise you on how to cooperate. Also, they can pass things along to the government and document your compliance with their requests. Treat this as a highly formal process because it can crush an export-import business in a matter of months.

Policy Implementation

As you navigate the process, you also want to solve whatever caused this mess. If someone failed to conduct due diligence, implement programs to ensure greater transparency from your trade partners. Ask the government what you can do to improve compliance, too. Even if the issue is entirely a government mistake, figure out what could've triggered it so you can avoid it in the future.

Contact a customs and trade attorney to learn more.