Joint memorandum submitted by HM Revenue
and Customs and the UK Border Agency
1. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the
UK Border Agency (UKBA) welcome this opportunity to set out our
roles in relation to enforcing the import and export prohibition
on class A drugs, specifically cocaine, the legal framework in
which we work and our approach to enforcement both at the UK border
and in the international context.
HMRC AND UKBA
2. The creation of the UKBA integrates the
work of the Border and Immigration Agency, UKVisas and border
related responsibilities of HM Revenue and Customs to create a
single immigration and customs control to tackle smuggling, immigration
crime and border tax fraud. Day-to-day responsibility for the
operational enforcement of prohibitions and restrictions on the
import and export of goods, including cocaine, transferred to
UKBA in April 2008. The formal transfer of functions from the
Commissioners of Revenue and Customs is subject to Parliamentary
approval. Provisions enabling the transfer of functions are in
the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration (BCI) Bill currently
subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.
3. At present HMRC retains overall accountability
for Departmental Strategic Objective 3, which is to reduce the
risk of the illicit import and export of material which might
harm the UK's physical and social well-being. HMRC also retains
statutory accountability for the actions of HMRC staff working
in UKBA. For clarity we have provided a joint memorandum that
sets out these interim arrangements, whether the activities described
are performed by HMRC or UKBA or both.
4. UKBA's strategic objectives include two
that have clear links to our drugs enforcement role:
to protect our border and our national
1.guarding routes to Britain with early action
2.detecting and stopping risks and threats to
Britain at our border.
to tackle border tax fraud, smuggling
and immigration crime by:
1.holding those who break our laws to account
for their actions;
2.creating and managing customs anti-smuggling
crime partnerships in the UK and overseas;
3.transforming collection, dissemination and
use of intelligence; globally and locally;
4.transforming our enforcement capability.
5. Looking ahead once the BCI Bill becomes
law, the UK Border Agency will exercise customs functions related
to controlling the movement of goods, people, and means of transport
at the border, according to agreed priorities and legal obligations.
The UKBA will detect and deter non-compliance with customs obligations
at the border, tackling smuggling and other activity that poses
a risk to border security, the integrity of the tax base and the
UK economy. We can provide the Committee with an update on the
transfer of functions in our oral evidence.
6. UK Border Agency anti-smuggling staff
work at the frontier to detect and disrupt smuggling of a wide
range of goodsfiscal as well as prohibited and restricted.
To ensure that activity is as effective as possible HMRC and UKBA
take a targeted risk based approach to intervention that is intelligence
led. Deployment is based on flexibility and mobility to ensure
that resources are deployed to those ports and airports that present
the highest smuggling risk.
7. We use a variety of detection technologies
to scan and examine baggage, vehicles and freight to detect drugs
smuggling. This includes up-to-date x-ray and trace detection
technology coupled with the use of detector dogs. We deploy a
fleet of Cutters that have a maritime surveillance capability
to track and interdict large smuggling attempts at sea and support
other national and international law enforcement partners.
8. Responsibility for criminal investigation
and intelligence work relating to drugs smuggling transferred
from HMRC to SOCA in April 2006. HMRC and SOCA operational staff
work closely together in a number of ways, under the overall direction
of a Partnership Agreement. HMRC notify SOCA of all detections
of cocaine and other class A drugs. Detections that are not adopted
by SOCA may be investigated by HMRC's Referred Investigation Teams
or referred to a local police force
HMRC AND UKBA OPERATE
9. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 categorises
cocaine as a class A controlled drug. Section 3 of the Act prohibits
the importation and exportation of a controlled drug unless either:
the import or export is made under and
in accordance with a licence issued by the Home Office; or
an exception is made by the Misuse of
Drugs Regulations 2001 under Section 7 of the Act (MDA).
10. Customs enforcement powers are mainly
derived from the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (CEMA),
which sets out the offences and sanctions in the event of an illegal
import or export. The most relevant provisions are:
Section 49: makes imported prohibited
and restricted goods liable to forfeiture;
Section 139: powers to detain or seize
goods liable to forfeiture; and
Section 170: offences in relation to
the import of prohibited and restricted goods.
11. The key driver for our drugs enforcement
activity is the Government's Drugs Strategy led by the Home Office.
Its enforcement aims include maintaining strong border controls
and working with international partners to intercept drugs before
they reach the UK borders, and disrupting serious and organised
crime through our combined actions. We work in partnership with
SOCA, police, the Home Office and FCO to prevent harm to communities
by reducing the supply of drugs, tackling those that cause the
most harm, namely crack, cocaine and heroin.
12. In practical terms we aim to maximise
the potential impact that anti-smuggling controls can provide
to reducing harm, not just by seizing smuggled drugs but also
by conducting checks and interventions that directly support SOCAs
targeting of organised crime This reflects our contribution to
DSO 3, one of the outcomes of which is to maintain the level of
disruption of the attempted import and export of illicit drugs,
for which there are two indicators:
To maintain seizures of heroin and cocaine
at 2006-07 levels. For 2009-10 the cocaine targets are 1,200 seizures
totalling 2,400 Kgs;and
To fulfil taskings from SOCA involving
an intervention and SOCA requests for checks and enquiries, the
HMRC/UKBA target is to meet 98% of intervention requests and checks
Operations "Airbridge" and "Westbridge":
13. Operation Airbridge was set up in 2002
by HM Customs and Excise working in partnership with the Jamaican
authorities to support their efforts to intercept at the point
of embarkation the high numbers of drug couriers, particularly
those with internal concealments (ie swallowing or concealed in
body cavities), using the Caribbean island as a gateway to the
UK and other European countries. The operation is now run by UKBA.
14. Since the introduction of Operation
Airbridge, the number of drug couriers with internal concealments
of cocaine detected at UK airports from Jamaica has declined steadily
from approximately 1,000 in 2002 to 3 in the last financial year.
15. In 2006 HMRC accepted an invitation
from the Government of Ghana to assist them in tackling the growth
in the trafficking of cocaine by air from Ghana. Operation Westbridge,
working in a similar way to Airbridge, began in November 2006
and has so far been responsible for seizures of 485 kgs of cocaine
worth over £96 million.
16. These operations meet our Drugs Strategy
commitment to intercept drugs and drugs couriers before they reach
the UK. Agencies in host countries have told us that they gain
not only from the mentoring and training provided by UK Customs
officers but also from sending out a clear message that their
country is a more hostile environment for drug traffickers.
17. One of the aims of the EU Drugs Action
Plan for 2009-2012 is to develop international co-operation and
better engagement with countries outside the EU. UKBA and HMRC
are looking for opportunities to develop and extend the Airbridge
and Westbridge operational models to other countries and also
with other EU Member States. We work closely with SOCA whose overseas
liaison officer network is assisting our efforts. In the longer
term our goal is to set up operational and intelligence platforms
in both regions, working in partnership with those countries whose
Governments wish to collaborate to stem the flow of drugs through
their ports or airports and with other Member States.
18. The following table sets out our key
outputs in the last three years the total number of cocaine seizures
made and total weight for the last 3 years by HMRC and UKBA. Please
note that these seizures were made at the UK Border, they do not
take account of HMRC/UKBA upstream activity.
| Financial year||Total number
|No of persons|
|No of persons|
The attached Appendix lists brief summaries of some of the
recent significant cocaine seizures.
19. UKBA has more than 9,200 officers in its Border Force
directorate who are responsible for securing the border by ensuring
that only legitimate travellers and goods are allowed to enter
and leave the UK, while reducing the risk and threats to our border.
To do this Border Force applies and supports the controls at points
of entry and exit to the UK on people and goods.