With its ordinance of 15 March 2021, n. 7325, the Italian supreme court has highlighted two concepts related to the responsibility of the importer in the event that the certificate of origin is proven to be false and the sanctions applicable to the importer.
In particular, the supreme court stated that the importer must prove the origin of the imported goods and the accuracy of the information resulting from the certificates, while it is the duty of the customs authority to provide elements capable of invalidating such proof as being untrue or to demonstrate that the issue of incorrect certificates is attributable to the inaccurate representation of the facts by the exporter: however, if this latter proof cannot be provided, it falls on the importer to furnish proof as to the accuracy of the information provided by the exporter to the issuing authority at the time of the request for issuance of the certificate or the culpable error committed by the authority that issued the certificate without checking the falsity of the declaration of the exporting company (see, for all, supreme court section 5, ordinance n. 17945 of 04/07/2019 Rv. 654705 - 01).
From the above we can see the breadth of the responsibility of the importer who can be considered unrelated to a fraud only if they are in the position to prove that they have exercised a reasonable control of each step of the issuance of the certificate of origin by the exporter.
In terms of sanctions, even though art. 303, paragraph 1, of the Presidential Decree n. 43/1973 foresees a sanction in the case of irregularities relating to the “quality, quantity and value” of the goods, according to the supreme court; the above-mentioned sanction also applies in the case of the untrue origins of the goods.
The position of the court is that the concept of “quality” of goods includes any characteristic, property or condition that serves to determine the nature of the goods imported and distinguish them, including origin (see for all, most recently, supreme court section 5, ordinance no. 10227 of 29/05/2020 Rv. 657725 - 01; supreme court section 5, ordinance n. 2169 of 25/01/2019 Rv. 652 271 - 01).
Both principles stated by the supreme court are convincing and suggest that importers must be careful when they have any reasonable doubt regarding the origin of the goods and not to simply rely on the declaration of the exporter.
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