United States Code

USC most recently checked for updates: May 21, 2024

§ 1491.
Unclaimed merchandise; disposition of forfeited distilled spirits, wines and malt liquor
(a)
Appraisal and sale of unclaimed merchandise

Any entered or unentered merchandise (except merchandise entered under section 1557 of this title, but including merchandise entered for transportation in bond or for exportation) which shall remain in a bonded warehouse pursuant to section 1490 of this title for 6 months from the date of importation thereof, without all estimated duties, taxes, fees, interest, storage, or other charges thereon having been paid, shall be considered unclaimed and abandoned to the Government and shall be appraised and sold by the Customs Service at public auction under such regulations as the Secretary of the Treasury shall prescribe. All gunpowder and other explosive substances and merchandise liable to depreciation in value by damage, leakage, or other cause to such extent that the proceeds of sale thereof may be insufficient to pay the duties, taxes, fees, interest, storage, and other charges, if permitted to remain in 1

1
 So in original. The word “in” probably should not appear.
pursuant to section 1490 of this title in a bonded warehouse for 6 months, may be sold forthwith, under such regulations as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe. Merchandise subject to sale hereunder or under section 1559 of this title may be entered or withdrawn for consumption at any time prior to such sale upon payment of all duties, taxes, fees, interest, storage, and other charges, and expenses that may have accrued thereon, but such merchandise after becoming subject to sale may not be exported prior to sale without the payment of such duties, taxes, fees, interest, charges, and expenses nor may it be entered for warehouse. The computation of duties, taxes, interest, and fees for the purposes of this section and sections 1493 and 1559 of this title shall be at the rate or rates applicable at the time the merchandise becomes subject to sale.

(b)
Notice of title vesting in United States
At the end of the 6-month period referred to in subsection (a), the Customs Service may, in lieu of sale of the merchandise, provide notice to all known interested parties that the title to such merchandise shall be considered to vest in the United States free and clear of any liens or encumbrances, on the 30th day after the date of the notice unless, before such 30th day—
(1)
the subject merchandise is entered or withdrawn for consumption; and
(2)
payment is made of all duties, taxes, fees, transfer and storage charges, and other expenses that may have accrued thereon.
(c)
Retention, transfer, destruction, or other disposition

If title to any merchandise vests in the United States by operation of subsection (b), such merchandise may be retained by the Customs Service for official use, transferred to any other Federal agency or to any State or local agency, destroyed, or otherwise disposed of in accordance with such regulations as the Secretary shall prescribe. All transfer and storage charges or expenses accruing on retained or transferred merchandise shall be paid by the receiving agency.

(d)
Petition

Whenever any party, having lost a substantial interest in merchandise by virtue of title vesting in the United States under subsection (b), can establish such title or interest to the satisfaction of the Secretary within 30 days after the day on which title vests in the United States under subsection (b), or can establish to the satisfaction of the Secretary that the party did not receive notice under subsection (b), the Secretary may, upon receipt of a timely and proper petition and upon finding that the facts and circumstances warrant, pay such party out of the Treasury of the United States the amount the Secretary believes the party would have received under section 1493 of this title had the merchandise been sold and a proper claim filed. The decision of the Secretary with respect to any such petition is final and conclusive on all parties.

(e)
Appraisal and sale or other disposition of forfeited distilled spirits, wines, and malt liquor
All distilled spirits, wines, and malt liquor forfeited to the Government summarily or by order of court, under any provision of law administered by the United States Customs Service, shall be appraised and disposed of by—
(1)
delivery to such Government agencies, as in the opinion of the Secretary have a need for such distilled spirits, wines, and malt liquor for medical, scientific, or mechanical purposes, or for any other official purpose for which appropriated funds may be expended by a Government agency:
(2)
gifts to such eleemosynary institutions as, in the opinion of the Secretary, have a need for such distilled spirits, wines, and malt liquor for medical purposes;
(3)
sale by Customs Service at public auction under such regulations as the Secretary shall prescribe, except that before making any such sale the Secretary shall determine that no Government agency or eleemosynary institution has established a need for such spirits, wines, and malt liquor under paragraph (1) or (2); or
(4)
destruction.
(June 17, 1930, ch. 497, title IV, § 491, 46 Stat. 726; June 25, 1938, ch. 679, § 14, 52 Stat. 1083; Pub. L. 91–271, title III, § 301(j), June 2, 1970, 84 Stat. 289; Pub. L. 95–410, title II, § 208, Oct. 3, 1978, 92 Stat. 901; Pub. L. 103–182, title VI, § 659, Dec. 8, 1993, 107 Stat. 2213; Pub. L. 104–295, § 21(e)(8), Oct. 11, 1996, 110 Stat. 3531.)
cite as: 19 USC 1491