Cross-border shoppers coming home to Westman weren't all truthful in the lead-up to Christmas — risking not just coal in their stockings, but also some stiff fines at the customs office.
Statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency show that nearly 130,000 people crossed into Manitoba from the United States in December, at the 16 crossings along the southern border.
Of all that number, just 61 were refused entry. Officers also seized items nearly two dozen times, resulting in $15,600 in penalties for untruthful travellers.
Most of those were at the Emerson crossing, south of Winnipeg, which is Manitoba's busiest border crossing. However, a few notable incidents were at Westman crossings — including one that involved a dog.
The CBSA says that a Canadian coming home through Boissevain on Dec. 13 told officers that the dog had been purchased from a U.S. breeder for $1,000. However, officers found that the true price paid was $3,000 and when confronted, the traveller coughed up a receipt and an apology. Still, officers issued a penalty of $1,170 that had to be paid before the dog was returned. Had the dog been declared at the proper value, the GST payable would have been $150.
A few more big penalties in Boissevain came the day before, on Dec. 12, when three cross-border shoppers were nabbed.
In the first case that day, one person declared more than $600 in miscellaneous items, but officers noted there was an additional $1,000 in undeclared sporting goods. The items were seized and returned after he paid a $920 penalty — he would have paid only $50 in GST had he been truthful.
In the second case, a couple declared $350 in purchases and paid duties and taxes on their declaration. When officers conducted a routine search of their vehicle, they noted that the items the travellers declared were not in the vehicle, but found more than $3,600 worth of clothing and other goods that were not declared. Officers refunded the duties and taxes that were originally paid on the $350 and seized $3,600 of undeclared clothing and goods. The goods were returned after the travellers paid a $1,300 penalty for not declaring the goods properly. They would have paid a total of $200 in GST if they had made a truthful declaration.
About a week later, on Dec. 20 at the Coulter crossing south of Melita, two Canadian residents were returning from the United States and declared multiple snowmobiles. However, while verifying the price of the sleds, officers also found undeclared truck rims in the box of the travellers’ truck. The $950 rims were seized and returned once the travellers paid a $230 penalty. If they had been truthful, they would have paid approximately $50 in GST.
Finally, just before New Year's, on Dec. 30, a Manitoba man crossing at Cartwright presented one receipt for three packages. However, CBSA officers uncovered further receipts in two of the packages. In total, the man had failed to declare almost $500 American in health supplements. He was issued a penalty of more than $125. Had he been truthful, he would have paid approximately $25 in GST on the undeclared products.
Along with the customs work, border officers in Manitoba also issued 63 work permits, eight study permits, and granted permanent resident status to 180 people who came into the province in December.