McGrigors set for group claim against Customs

McGrigors is gearing up to lead a group action against Customs & Excise on behalf of traders who believe that an opinion delivered in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last week means they are owed damages.

Last Wednesday (16 February), the Advocate-General of the ECJ handed down an opinion, ahead of the ECJ’s final judgment, in the ‘Bond House’ carousel fraud case. The case concerns money made by fraudsters who buy goods overseas and then use VAT payable only in the UK to make a profit on the goods.

The Advocate-General delivered an opinion that ensures Customs cannot pursue all traders for the repayment of that VAT, but only those who have played a part in the fraud.

McGrigors’ tax litigation team, led by partner James Bullock, is now preparing to launch claims in the UK on behalf of at least five clients, including US trader Dragon Futures, which believes that Customs is liable to it for damages.

If enough clients decide to pursue claims they could be agregated in a group litigation order, still an uncommon practice in the UK.

Bullock said that if the ECJ followed the Advocate-General’s opinion, it would be a victory for businesses and victory for common sense. “Given the number of claims that there are likely to be,” he added, “this action is likely to take the form of a group litigation order.”