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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online
To refer by e-mail to this file use "bermuda-online.org/illegalimports" as your Subject
Narcotics offenders will be fined up to $1 million and receive sentences of between ten years and life under the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005. Severe penalties will apply for other violations.
To avoid arrest for any type of illegal narcotics, such as but not limited to liquid ecstasy, magic mushrooms, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc. don't import them. Bermuda laws do not permit the sale of marijuana or any other narcotic for any reason, not even for any alleged medical purposes. If you live in Colorado or Washington State or anywhere else that has legalized marijuana in any way, don't make the mistake of bringing it to Bermuda. It isn't allowed here under any circumstances. Your home-state policies don't apply and are not recognized in Bermuda and you'll be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Bermuda law, regardless of whether you are cruise-ship visitor or airline passenger visitor or working newcomer or Bermudian or non-Bermudian resident.
There is a total zero tolerance policy and crews of cruise ships and drug couriers are known as major importers. Bermuda Police and Customs work very closely with their drug enforcement counterparts in the USA and elsewhere. Despite warnings, arrests and convictions happen every day. Detection systems are now very sophisticated and include drug-sniffing dogs employed for the task at the airport and on cruise ships. Penalties for not complying are very harsh in Bermuda for even the smallest amount, with separate criminal charges for importation, possession, intent to supply and more - and with substantial repercussions elsewhere as well, as their names, passport numbers, social security numbers, and more are circulated to overseas authorities.
Cruise ship passengers are strongly recommended to read, learn, inwardly digest and pay strict heed. It applies to those who arrive by any means - air or cruise ship or yacht. The full list of the hundreds of banned narcotics are in the Bermuda Government's Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005. It is not an excuse if you fail to make yourself familiar with the contents of the full list. Police and Customs officers routinely search and often act, either for no specific reason or on tips from passengers and crew. They work closely with staff on all the cruise ship lines serving Bermuda and when necessary call on the services of their Cruise Ship Enforcement Team. Penalties are very severe for those who ignore this warning. Locals, tourists and visitors are not given any breaks. UK European, USA and Canadian laws don't apply in Bermuda. Excuses that the drugs are needed for medical reasons are spurious and not accepted. Claims they invariably offer that they do not have the money to pay the fines are routinely ignored. They are remanded in custody or are put on bail with their transportation tickets impounded until they do. One reason officials in Bermuda are so tough is because fines are revenue to the Bermuda Government and the Customs Department is the source of the biggest of all revenue departments of the Government. So, unlike many other countries where Customs procedures appear to be relaxed and tolerant, the Bermuda system is neither. The discovery rate is over 70%. Cruise ships, their crews and passengers are automatically suspected now, especially since a huge stash of over 15 kilos of cocaine - valued locally at over US$4 million - were seized from a cruise ship recently.
There have been many cruise ship and other visitors, crew members and others caught with drugs. They are caught via drug-sniffing dogs when ships are on the high seas in international waters, by Bermuda Customs and related officials, with the full knowledge and cooperation of American authorities, or on arrival by air. They are empowered by the cruise ship owners concerned to search visitors' accommodation on the ships, with their dogs - and do it very efficiently. Those arrested are charged, remanded in custody and possibly face several serious charges including importation with intent to supply. When visitors are caught and convicted of having illegal narcotics, they may lose their scheduled airline or cruise ship departure dates because they will have to remain in Bermuda until their court cases are scheduled, 5 days or more later; will not be able to apply for refunds; will be officially deported; and will have files on them given to police forces in other countries. Some complain, thinking their constitutional or other rights have been ignored, which is complete rubbish. They are expected to obey the laws of the land or pay the price.
Offensive and defensive weapons of any kind, like real or fake or toy firearms (guns) of any type and any ammunition; any kind of weapon to deter thieves or intruders; catapults (slingshots); BB guns; cutlasses; crossbows; mace in canisters; pornographic material; throwing knives; flick knives; martial arts weaponry; nightsticks; nunchakus; spiked wristbands; swords; spear guns, all pistols, all rifles, all ammunition for them, signal guns, all other weapons and all live marine animals (including lobsters) by any private individuals. Some visitors and businesspeople apparently think it is permitted to bring firearms into Bermuda. It is not, not under any circumstances. The weapons will be seized permanently by the Bermuda Police Service and those convicted will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. They will get a minimum ten year jail sentence for illegally importing the weapons into Bermuda and will be publicized and reported to Federal or provincial or state authorities for illegally carrying firearms on ships or aircraft. It is not an acceptable excuse to say you were not asked by airport staff if you packed your bags yourself, because you were. Nor is it acceptable to say that you forgot an illegal item was in your luggage, or was put there by mistake.
Bermuda Customs Officers took over from Bermuda Immigration the procedure for arrivals in early 2002. Be prepared for lines (queues) at the Immigration desk, then Customs duty counter, then Customs inspection queue. There is no "green light" or "nothing to declare" or quick pay-duty system, as in North American, Irish and European airports. After claiming luggage from the carousels, go through Bermuda Customs. Declare a medically prescribed drug.
85% of all visitors are from the USA and assume, incorrectly, that in Customs exemption of duties for visitors - from wherever they may be - and returning residents, Bermuda has the same very generous laws as the USA. Unfortunately, this is not the case. By comparison with the USA, Britain and Europe, in this regard Bermuda treats its visitors very severely and its returning residents with laws and regulations the democratic countries would not dare impose.
Compare the following:
Normally, in the USA, for visitors or returning residents, the duty-free allowance or exemption from Customs Duty is $400 per trip, but from November 4, 2002, it has been raised from November 4, 2002 to $800 (from $400) for those who have not used the exemption in 30 days.
In Bermuda, returning residents are allowed an allowance of only US$ 100 (until 1989 it was US$400 a person, reduced in 1990/91 to US$250 a person and subsequently reduced yet again to the present US$100 per person) before they pay duty on items they bring but visitors are not entitled to such an allowance.
All visitors and residents arriving by air or cruise ship are now being given the following form by airlines and cruise ships and are required by the Bermuda Government to complete them on both sides before they clear Bermuda Immigration. No other country requires this form.
Visitors may bring in, duty free for personal use only while they are here, their clothes and articles like cameras, golf bags, 50 cigars or 200 cigarettes or 0.454 kilos (1 pound weight) tobacco; 1 liter of liquor or wine and a $30 gift allowance.
Items brought in by visitors and residents that are not within their duty free category incur a stand import duty rate of 22.25% of purchase cost. Produce receipts from a retail store satisfactory to the Customs Department of actual purchase price of the items or be prepared for the Customs Department to assess items for your payment of duty at much higher Bermuda prices. This is applied vigorously. To avoid being arrested and having goods confiscated, do not try to import goods into Bermuda without paying the duty.
Bermuda Customs are now very, very tough on the rising number of duty evaders with more court cases plus on-the-spot fines at the airport. Failure to comply with customs regulations result in penalties for false declarations and prosecution of more cases involving serious commercial fraud. Duty cheats can also get a criminal record. Individuals who evade duty are liable for penalties of up to $12,000 or five times the duty payable while commercial duty cheats are subject to fines of up to $100,000. From September 1, 2004 Customs make on-the-spot penalty assessments at the Airport Baggage Hall with officers given discretion about the levels of fines. Each of the current absolute fixed civil penalties for infractions are replaced with a power to assess a civil penalty up to a maximum level with mitigating factors taken into account. Serious offences and offences involving commercial importation of goods will still be dealt with by the Customs Investigations Department and the Collector of Customs. In all cases Customs still has the option to choose whether to prosecute or assess for a civil penalty.
If you bring any foodstuffs with you, check with Bermuda Customs to know what is legal and dutiable as the case may be. Only Bermuda Customs can be the definitive source of information in this regard. Write in advance to Bermuda Customs at Hamilton Hall, 40 Front Street, Hamilton HM 11, P. O. Box HM 2084, Hamilton HM HX, Bermuda. Some fresh, frozen or cooked fish can be brought in providing the packaging is free of algae or seaweed.
Most Consumer and electronic goods can be imported if determined to be free of narcotics, subject to import duty.
Owners of arriving animals, plants, flowers, fruits, shellfish and products and vegetables must have proper documentation approved earlier by the Bermuda Government's Department of the Environment. All plants brought in by residents and visitors by air or via the Post Office must have documentation approved in advance by the Plant Protection Laboratory or they will be confiscated and referred to that facility for extensive plant inspection for any pests or problems. Residents and visitors should note that under the Fisheries (Protected Species) Order 1978, the Queen Conch (Strombus Gigas) and the Harbour Conch (Strombus Costatus) are illegal to import, an offence to purchase and possess and illegal to take from Bermuda waters.
If at a hotel and with nothing illegal and with no items to declare, you may be waved through. If at a private home, you and your luggage will probably be inspected, possibly thoroughly.
To ensure that persons do not pay duty again on goods they export temporarily for their personal use, they should register duty paid articles, via Customs Form 52a, before their departure. They can do so before a Customs Officer at HM Customs Main Office; or General Post Office - Parcel Post; or Airport Customs Passenger Arrivals Hall prior to check-in for an airline flight; or Airport Customs Long Room Freight Shed; or HM Customs Yacht Reporting Facility, St. George's.
Last Updated: May
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