A global law firm has recently published a report on the increasing proclivity for US prosecutors to treat trade mis-invoicing and financial fraud as criminal offences.

According to lawyers from White & Case, this marks a shift from the traditional US practice of relying on only civil penalties against perpetrators of trade-based financial crime.

Criminalisation trend

The trend towards criminalisation of these offences arguably began in 2008, when contaminated goods entered the US in several high profile cases.

Since then, US Customs and Border Protection has been referring a growing number of cases to the US Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations for review, investigation, and, if appropriate, prosecution.

Jail terms

The lawyers say that customs violations previously impacted only on a company’s finances.

Now they say companies and their executives increasingly face criminal investigations and felony charges carrying potential terms of imprisonment of up to 20 years, probation, supervised release and potential career ending reputational damage.

The full report entitled ‘And Up to Twenty Years in Prison: The Criminalisation of US Customs Violations’ can be found here.