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Customs Penalties


MILLAR KREKLEWETZ LLP is a boutique Canadian law firm with lawyers who have significant expertise in customs and trade matters involving customs penalties under Canadas customs laws.

The following is a short introduction to the imposition of customs penalties under Canadas customs laws.

Customs Penalties

There are a number of possible penalties for contraventions under the Customs Act including: Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS) penalties, other civil penalties (seizures and ascertained forfeitures), and criminal prosecution.

AMPS Penalties

AMPS are a graduated civil monetary penalty system that applies to contraventions of Canadas customs and trade laws (which are principally found in the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Special Import Measures Act, and their associated regulations) and can be imposed for over 350 different infractions, ranging from simple mis-classification of goods, to non-revenue related statistical errors.

Other Civil Penalties

The civil penalties take the form of seizures and ascertained forfeitures and can be triggered by simple non-compliance with the customs legislation, with no requirement for willful default or neglect on the part of the importer.


The Canada Border Services Agency (the CBSA) has the authority to seize goods where an officer believes that the Act or the regulations have been contravened.

Ascertained Forfeitures

Ascertained forfeiture is used as an alternative to seizure where the goods cannot be found or if seizure would be impractical, and allows the CBSA to demand payment of up to the value of the goods plus applicable duties.

Criminal Prosecution

The Customs Act also imposes large criminal fines and possible imprisonment for certain offences. Criminal prosecution may be initiated by way of summary conviction, which is to limited offences committed within the last three years, or by way of an indictment, where there is no limitation period.

Importers facing criminal charges under the Customs Act are entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and also entitled to other Charter rights. However, they are also generally required to provide defences to the issues on which they have been charged.

Millar Kreklewetz LLP is well-placed to provide both substantive and procedural defences to customs penalties, and persons facing AMP penalties, other civil penalties and criminal prosecutions are encouraged to contact us for more infomation on the issues inherent in their files.

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