Our friend Justine put in an FOI to HMRC/UKBA and asked for the TOTAL number of seizures for Overseas Seizures and Air Seizures. She also asked for the location of Overseas Seizures and what Overseas Seizures referred to.
She was told by HMRC/UKBA that Overseas Seizures refers to seizures outside the national territory of the United Kingdom ! (my edit ... no shit Sherlock)
She was refused the rest of the information under Section 31 (1) (a)(b)(d) of the FOIA which states :-
lnformation which is not exempt by virtue of Section 30 is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or be likely to, prejudice -
(a) the prevention or detection of crime,
(b) the apprehension or prosecution of offenders
(d) the assessment or collection of any tax or duty or of any imposition of a similar nature
(HMRC/UKBA then went on to explain their decision)
"The information you have requested identifies data specific to particular geographical areas
and modes of interception which if released would provide a picture or partial picture of
operational activity useful to those minded to circumvent law enforcement controls. This
would, as a consequence, adversely affect our ability to prevent or detect crime, the ability to
apprehend or prosecute offenders, and as a direct consequence, prejudice the ability to
assess or collect tax, duty or similar.
It is publicly acknowledged that our activities have forced smugglers to adapt the methods
they employ. For example, in their 2000-01 Standard Report the National Audit Office noted
that the introduction of x-ray scanners was ‘forcing more intelligent methods of smuggling’.
Releasing data specific to geographical regions would provide a useful indicator as to where
we concentrate our overseas activities which would not serve the public interest in
understanding the effectiveness of our anti fraud strategies, but, as outlined previously,
would provide a picture of operational activity useful to those minded to circumvent our
Having weighed up the factors for and against disclosure, we have concluded that the public
interest clearly favours withholding the information. "
WTF? it's in our (the public) interest NOT to know the total seizures they made Overseas and at Airports??!!!!
How's that for arrogance? Get the feeling they are trying to hide something?
Justine was not impressed so she asked for a review. She will take it to the Information Commissioner if her review still refuses to give the info. Here is Justine's reply to them.:-
"I am writing to request an internal review of HM Revenue and
Customs's handling of my FOI request 'Number of cigarette/tobacco
seizures 2008/9'. Your Ref FoI 2119-11 14th Sept 2011.
ln the above FOI l requested the following :-
"l note in your Autumn Report 2009 that in Table 5. Excise Fraud it
states the following in the column for 2008/9 re the total number
of cigarettes seized:-
Overseas seizures 855m
Air seizures 244m
Inland seizures 180m
Maritime seizures 557m
passenger seizures 11m
Number of cross
channel seizures 2,836
1. l hereby make an FOI request as to what exactly is meant by
Overseas Seizures and specifically where geographically?
2. Also,what is the number of seizures for this Overseas Seizure
figure of 855m re 2008/9?
3. Also, what is the number of seizures for this Air Seizures
of 244m re 2008/9?"
ln your response of 14th Sept 2011 you partly answered 1. but
refused data on locations under Section 31(1)(a)(b)(d). l fail to see how
giving the locations of 'overseas seizures' can prejudice
prevention or detection of crime etc. HMRC/UKBA have no
jurisdiction in EU other than at juxtaposed controls ... these
being Coquelles, Dunkirk, Bordeaux and Calais in France (plus 3
train stations for Eurostar re Paris. Also Gare du Midi, Brussels.
As UKBA/HMRC have no jurisdiction anywhere else in the EU l fail to
see how giving the overseas locations for overseas seizures can
compromise anything at all. l was not requesting a breakdown of
amounts seized per location.
You also refused under Section31(1)(a)(b)(d) to answer my FOI request for
2. and 3. Again this data on number of seizures that l requested
cannot in anyway compromise your detection, intelligence or
operations etc. l was not requesting a breakdown of seizures per
location (i.e specific airports, ports). All l requested was the
TOTAL number of seizures re Overseas Seizures and Air Seizures.
This is EXACTLY the same as the data you yourselves have produced
for Cross Channel Passenger Seizures (2008/9). You state you seized
11m cigarettes re Cross Channel Passenger Seizures and then gave
the TOTAL number of Cross Channel Seizures as 2836. These figures
are not port location specific.
l therefore request this same data as you yourselves produced for
Cross Channel Passenger Seizures (2008/9) but for Overseas Seizures
and Air Seizures (2008/9). l request the TOTAL number of seizures
for Overseas Seizures (2008/9) and the TOTAL number of seizures for
Air Seizures (2008/9)
According to the House of Commons General Commitee and Damian Green (Minister for lmmigration) that although the UKBA have juxtaposed borders in France and Belgium they only have legislation for Customs Controls at Coquelles. Seeing as seizures need CEMA the only place that Overseas Seizures can legally refer has to be Coquelles, is it not?
Don't really think HMRC/UKBA are worried about that, what concerns them is the figures for the total NUMBER of seizures. They are obviously very worried about those figures coming out!