Sovereign Base Areas Customs

Sovereign Base Areas Customs is a semi-autonomous branch of UK Customs with jurisdiction over the Sovereign Base Areas, home to British Forces Cyprus. It is managed by the MoD and around 3500 military personnel are posted there at any one time. In contrast with other customs forces the SBA Customs has a much wider role of responsibility, like most branches within the territory, successfully administrating many areas including but not limited to; immigration, imports, exports, tax, births, marriages, divorces and deaths.

Overview

The senior and local management officers are on loan from the Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in the UK and assist with operational management and training and development of the locally employed officers of SBA Customs and Immigration service. SBACI officers monitor two crossing points at Pergamos iand Strovilia in the Eastern Sovereign Base Area at the Green Line Border between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkish Controlled Area of the North of Cyprus. Between the North and South areas of the island there are formal customs and immigration controls at these crossing points and the UN Buffer Zone remains along most part of the Green Line. SBA Customs are frequently invloved in preventing smuggling and illegal immigration into SBA territory. There are regular mobile patrols along the ESBA section of the Green line and training exercises and operations are accomplished with the close cooperation of SBA Police and UK Military units based in Cyprus at the time.

Businesses based within territory must be licenced by the SBA Customs to conduct trade and are there are various guidelines and restrictions for various types of business. The administration also produces birth, marriage and death certificates for UK Dependants based within the territory.

Working in unison with the Cyprus Joint Maritime Unit comprising the Royal Navy Cyprus Squadron and 417 Maritime of the RLC, the Sovereign Base Area Administration (SBAA) now operate a combined maritime unit comprising joint working of SBA Police and SBA Customs to operate patrols within territorial waters and along the coastline within the territory to prevent illegal immigration, illegal fishing, and smuggling. Their enforcement has allowed for the fish reserve at Akrotiri to remain prosperous as due to extensive over-fishing much of the fish life in the waters in other areas of the island is very low in numbers. In conjunction to this SBA Customs also liaise closely with UK military resources and the Republic of Cyprus Government Departments to combat pollution in SBA waters and along the coastline whilst controlling ports and fisheries. The Fiscal Officer is also designated the Queens harbourmaster of the mole in Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

Personnel

SBA Customs and Immigration Officers are a uniformed organisation and wear a uniform with the style of Royal Naval rank insignia but are distinguished by a cap badge which contains the portcullis underneath the Sovereign’s crown, enclosed within a pair of golden fronds. The ranks of SBA Customs are worn as follows : the Fiscal Officer wears the insignia of a RN Commander whilst the Deputy Fiscal Officer and Officer in Charge at Dhekalia wear the rank braid of RN Lieutenant Commander. Locally employed uniformed operational officers at RAF Akrotiri and the military station at Dhekelia and the ESBA crossing points wear badges of rank with one or two rings of braid according to their substantive grade.

Responsibilities

SBA Customs control tax free imports at the airports and the crossing points within the territory by regulating the value and amount of goods such as cigarettes or alcohol that can be carried through the control and entry points without declaration. The main airport is RAF Akrotiri which has many regular flights to and from the UK and the Middle East. The SBAs in Cyprus also provide the opportunity for a stop off point for 36 hours for soldiers that have recently experienced combat to participate in decompression activity before returning home. In April 2004 over 100,000 cigarettes were seized and the largest isolated attempt to smuggle cigarettes involved a Turkish Cypriot man from Lapithos, who tried to smuggle a total of 29,200 across the Pergamos checkpoint near Larnaca.

With regard to the control of tax free schemes SBA Customs regulate, among other things, the sale of goods with limited imported stocks at Ermes stores on the island which supply the British residents with familiar products all tax free to entitled persons serving in the SBAs. SBACI also control the messes and clubs. All mail posted to BFPO addresses on the island is subject to inspection by the SBA Customs and they can, for example, question the legitimacy of parcels marked as "gifts" and charge duties and tax as appropriate.

Ranks

Operating procedure

The SBAs were retained in 1960 as military bases under British sovereignty, not as ordinary colonial territories. In a declaration by Her Majesty's Government in 'Appendix O' to the 1960 treaty with Cyprus, the Sovereign Base Areas Administration have to follow specific rules of governance to which the SBA Customs enforces and adheres to including:

*Not to develop the Sovereign Base Areas for other than military purposes.
*Not to set up and administer "colonies".
*Not to create customs posts or other frontier barriers between the Sovereign Base Areas and the Republic.
*Not to set up or permit the establishment of civilian commercial or industrial enterprises except insofar as these are connected with military requirements, and not otherwise to impair the economic commercial or industrial unity and life of the Island.
*Not to establish commercial or civilian seaports or airports.
*Not to allow new settlement of people in the Sovereign Base Areas other than for temporary purposes.
*Not to expropriate private property within the Sovereign Base Areas except for military purposes on payment of fair compensation.

The bases have their own legal system, distinct from the UK and Cyprus. This consists of the laws of the Colony of Cyprus as at August 1960, amended as necessary. The laws of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are kept, as far as possible, the same as the laws of Cyprus. The Court of the Sovereign Base Areas is concerned with non-military offences committed by any person within Akrotiri and Dhekelia, and law and order is maintained by the Sovereign Base Areas Police, while military law is upheld by the Cyprus Joint Police Unit.

ee also

*Akrotiri and Dhekelia
*British Overseas Territories
*Crown Dependencies
*Customs
*HM Revenue & Customs
*Inland Revenue
*Sovereign Base Areas

External links

* [http://www.sba.mod.uk/web_pages/customs.htm SBA Customs Official Website]
* [http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/ HMRC]


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