The judicial and administrative courts may be called upon to deal with customs litigations at the initiative of the administration or a liable person. In principle the judicial courts have full competence in the matter. The administrative courts may, in the event that the litigations challenge the action of the service or the administrative responsibility, be competent. However, in case of litigations concerning the nature, origin, value, quantity or weight of goods, the administrative redress should be initiated prior to court referral.
THE ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS
Appeals to hierarchy: This enables the user to contact the superior of the agent who reported the case. He must take action within two (2) weeks from the date of signature of the report. Beyond this time-limit, the appeal is not admissible.
Appeals against service findings are admissible under the following conditions:
- The disputed report must explicitly mention reservations;
- The appeal addressed to the superior must recall each contested finding and expose counter arguments or evidence;
- The appeal, to which an acknowledgment of a litigation submission should be attached, is filed to the reporting service which forwards it to the superior. The litigation submission backed by a first class bank is first deposited in the same service, and includes the amount of any duties and penalties that may be required.
It should be noted that for offences reported before the removal of goods, the filing of a backed litigation submission is a precondition for the clearance of such goods.
The Appeal Committee: is a joint body established by Ministerial Decision N┬░071/CF/MINFI/DD of 30 December 1999, for the purpose of dealing with litigations concerning the nature, origin, value, quantity or weight of goods.
Cases are referred to the Appeal Committee by the Approved Customs Clearing Agent or his representative who must personally attend the sessional proceedings of the Committee. In case of impediment duly notified to the Secretariat of the Appeal Committee, he may be represented by proxy delivered to one or several principals chosen by him. The decisions of the Appeal Committee are taken after cross-examination or in absentia and are binding.
The Central Africa Economic Union (CAEU) Council of Ministers: Pursuant to the provisions of Article 130, paragraphs 5 and 6 of the CEMAC Customs Code, a user who challenges the decision of the Appeal Committee can file an appeal to the CAEU Council of Ministers within two (2) weeks from the date of the decision of the Appeal Committee. However, for companies governed by an establishment convention, the appeal to the arbitration body shall be filed within the time limit prescribed by the regulation in force.
APPEALS BEFORE THE COURTS
According to Article 130, paragraph 6 of the CEMAC Customs Code, judicial courts are competent to take decisions if all the redress procedures have failed. The courts which are competent in customs matters are the judicial courts and the administrative courts.
Appeals before the judicial courts
Material jurisdiction: Article 336 of the Customs Code provides that the High Courts have jurisdiction for any matter concerning the payment or refund of customs duties, oppositions to forced payment orders and other customs matters which do not fall within the jurisdiction of criminal courts.
Territorial jurisdiction: For non-criminal cases, the court which has jurisdiction is that within the defender\’s domicile. However, there is an exception for oppositions to forced payment orders, which are referred to the court in the territory of which the Customs Office where the forced payment order was issued (Article 337, paragraph 3 of the CC) is located.
Material jurisdiction: Police courts have jurisdiction for customs offences qualified as contraventions and all customs matters considered as exceptional, i.e. the Court of first instance. Correctional courts have jurisdiction to deal with customs offences qualified as crimes punishable under Article 403 of the Customs Code and all customs matters considered as exceptional, i.e. the High Court.
Territorial jurisdiction: A distinction should be made depending on whether an offence was reported and the goods seized or not.
APPEALS BEFORE THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURTS
According to the rules of Administrative Law, the jurisdiction of administrative courts in customs matters is limited to:
- The control of the Administration\’s responsibility in the organization of services;
- Litigations concerning the State\’s responsibility for customs agents in the performance of their duties, on condition that their acts are not separated from their functions;
- Litigations resulting from the action of the service when it intervenes beyond its fiscal mission.