Detained, forfeited and seized goods

Understand the difference between detained, forfeited and seized goods, the review process if your goods are seized, and how to apply for a review of seizure.


Detained goods

Sometimes goods are detained for further examination, investigation and testing to determine whether an offence has been committed or duty is payable. In such cases, you will be advised in writing that your goods have been detained. If no offence has been committed, the goods will be returned to you once any outstanding duty has been paid.

Forfeited goods

Imported or exported goods (including the packaging and covering) are forfeit to the Crown when they breach the Customs and Excise Act 2018, or an offence has been committed. When goods become forfeit, you are no longer entitled to the goods, and ownership moves to the Crown.

Seized goods

Customs seizes goods that are forfeit or where there is reasonable cause to suspect the goods are forfeit. When forfeited goods are seized, the Crown takes possession of the goods. Customs issues the importer, and anyone known to have an interest in the goods, a Notice of Seizure, which sets out the offence(s) and the grounds for forfeiture.

The importer must still pay any duty owing on the seized goods.

Return of forfeited and seized goods

Forfeited and seized goods cannot be returned, unless the Comptroller of Customs has approved an application for review of the seizure or a Customs Appeal Authority has overturned the Comptroller’s review decision on appeal.

Rights of appeal against forfeiture and seizure of the goods

The seizure notice sets out your rights for review. This may be given to you when you goods are seized or posted to you.

You can apply for a review of seizure if you believe that there was no legal basis for the seizure or there are mitigating reasons why the goods should be returned to you. Only people who can demonstrate a verifiable interest in the goods (that were obtained in good faith) may apply for a review of seizure.

How to make an application for review of seizure?

An applications for review of seizure must be made in writing or on NZCS Form 365 – Application for Review of Seizure.

The application must clearly state the reasons you believe that there was no legal basis for seizure or why your situation warrants the return of the seized goods. You should include information such as the impact that the loss of the goods would have on you and any precautions you took to ensure that you complied with Customs’ import or export requirements. Send your application to:

Comptroller of Customs
New Zealand Customs Service
PO Box 2218
WELLINGTON 6140
Email: crams@customs.govt.nz

Your application must be received by Customs no later than 20 working days after you received the Notice of Seizure.

Customs must make decision within 20 working days of receiving your application. The decision may be to:

  • dismiss the application for review
  • disallow the seizure and return the goods, conditionally or unconditionally
  • grant relief, conditionally or unconditionally.

Appealing a review decision

If you are dissatisfied with a review decision, including any condition imposed, you may apply to the Customs Appeal Authority.

Your appeal should be made on Form 14. The appeal must be lodged within 20 working days after Customs decision was given. Send the appeal along with the fee of $410 to:

The Registrar
Customs Appeal Authority
Tribunals Unit
Private Bag 32001
Panama Street
WELLINGTON 6146
Fax: 04 462 6686
Email: tribunals@justice.govt.nz
Website: www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/customs-appeal-authority

What happens to your goods if you don't appeal

If no application has been made for a review of seizure ownership of the goods is transferred to the Crown, and Customs has the right to sell, use, destroy or dispose of the goods.

Seized goods cannot be purchased from Customs, however, often goods are disposed of through auction houses, and anyone may bid on the goods.

For further information

Contact your nearest Customs office, or call Customs on 0800 428 786 (0800 4 CUSTOMS).