German company, KingKong-Tools GmbH & Co KG, and its American subsidiary, King Kong Tools, LLC (collectively “King Kong”), will pay $1.9 million to settle allegations of customs fraud under the False Claims Act. The government alleged that King Kong was falsely labelling its tools as “made in Germany” when, in fact, the tools were made in China. By misrepresenting the origin of the tools, King Kong avoided paying higher tariffs. This case began when a competitor of King Kong,China Pacificarbide, Inc filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that King Kong was manufacturing cutting tools in a Chinese factory. The tools were then shipped to Germany, where some additional processing was performed on some (but not all) of the tools. The tools were then shipped to the United States and declared to be “German” products. If the products had been correctly described as Chinese products, King Kong would have been required to pay a 25% tariff on Chinese goods. By falsely describing the tools as “German,” King Kong improperly avoided paying these tariffs.
“Companies cannot avoid paying tariffs by misrepresenting product manufacturing information,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “The Department of Justice will work diligently to uncover these schemes, and those companies involved in such misconduct will be compelled to pay tariffs owed, as well as penalties.”
“Stopping businesses from cheating the customs system not only prevents them from defrauding our government, but also prevents unfair competitive advantages that harm the labor market,” said Acting Special Agent in charge Travis Pickard who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Hopefully, the result of this case sends a clear message that HSI and its partners are watching and will hold you accountable for your actions.”
“Customs fraud in international trade of manufacturing goods result in an unfair advantage of legitimate businesses,” said Gregory Alvarez, Customs and Border Protection’s Director of Field Operations, Atlanta. “This enforcement action is another example of how CBPs trade specialists safeguard the economic security of the United States.”
This civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia under the False Claims Act, U.S. ex rel. China Pacificarbide, Inc. v. King Kong Tools, LLC, et al.
The False Claims Act is a federal law that imposes civil liability on any person who submits false claims to the federal government or its contractors. The law imposes treble damages and civil penalties on those who submit false claims. Under the law, whistleblowers (also called “relators”) who bring fraud to the government’s attention share in any recovery obtained by the government. Here, the relator will receive $286,861 from the settlement in this matter, plus attorney’s fees.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations.
The civil settlement was reached by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony DeCinque and Akash Desai. The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.
JEFFREY NEWMAN IS A WHISTLEBLOWER LAWYER. HE CAN BE REACHED AT 617-823-3217.