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US Rails Against Importer's Attacks on Credibility of Document Destruction Evidence in EAPA Suit

Claims made by importer Aspects Furniture International that questioned CBP evidence in an Enforce and Protect Act investigation lack merit, the U.S. said in a reply brief at the Court of International Trade. The bedroom furniture importer “advances numerous arguments that quibble with credibility findings and overlook detailed explanations provided by Customs," the government said following a remand proceeding at the trade court (Aspects Furniture International v. United States, CIT # 20-03824).

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The case stems from a CBP visit to Aspects' Chinese satellite office, Aspects Nantong, in which agency officials said they saw office employees destroying documents. In its arguments, Aspects didn't suggest that the CBP employees made up their eye witness accounts of the Aspects employees destroying the evidence, but still questioned the credibility of the agency officials. Aspects also said CBP’s “observations of document destruction" lack credibility since the agency took seven and a half months to prepare its verification report and did not disclose the issue with the company soon.

But the government said Aspects' arguments "are waived and are specious in any event," adding that the company's claim is not only waived since it was not brought up on remand, it is completely immaterial to the credibility of the report. The U.S. said "the fact that Customs officials took 7.5 months to meticulously detail their observations and findings in a lengthy report does not undermine its credibility. To the contrary, Customs found the statements in the verification report regarding document destruction by Aspects to be truthful, reasonable, and credible, because the agency officials who personally witnessed the document destruction by Aspects were experienced professionals and were subject to the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct."

CBP said it saw this destruction of evidence on two occasions in response to questions from the verifiers. The trade court remanded CBP's finding that Aspects evaded antidumping duties on wooden bedroom furniture from China, questioning the truthfulness of the evasion evidence (see 2211290078). On remand, CBP said it has no reason to question the truthfulness or credibility of its employees, adding that they are subject to a code of conduct (see 2303300049).

In reply to the remand results, Aspects said that the allegedly destroyed information was irrelevant to the proceeding (see 2304270025). CBP explained on remand that the destruction of evidence "was significant because such actions prevented CBP from fully understanding the scope of Aspects’s Nantong operations and which products from which manufacturers were exported to the United States." The agency added that "it is reasonable to infer that the evidence would have been material" since the company felt the need to stop CBP from reviewing it.