As you may have seen in the news recently, the President of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina has been forced to resigned and been jailed over his alleged role in a multi-million dollar customs fraud scheme. This scheme (referred to as “La Línea”) involved that payment of bribes to officers of SAT (Superintendencia de Admnistración Tributaria) in exchange for the application of lower duty rates to imported articles. In short, local customs brokers/importers would pay bribes to SAT officials who would then clear imported articles at lower duty rates.
The investigation into La Línea is continuing and further revelations are expected. Given the potential U.S. implications involved (e.g., FCPA), all companies that exported articles to Guatemala in recent years should review their transactions and controls to ensure that shipments were handled appropriately.
In particular, it is important that companies review the controls in place over any ex-US customs brokers. For example, when entering a new jurisdiction, companies should make sure that it understands upfront what import requirements apply to its goods (e.g., is an import license/permit required for the goods to be imported or not?) and what sort of duties & fees will be owed. It should also take steps to vet any customs brokers or agents. All companies should take steps to audit its brokers or agents against these requirements. Implementing reasonable steps like these would go along way to preventing expensive FCPA actions from occurring.
We hope this is helpful. If you have any questions about these issues, please let us know.