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I met up with Mr.Carnet on Sunday, and can report the following:
The carnet quality is very good. Somebody who has used carnets before (and knows that it is not real) might be able to spot that it is not correct. If they did not know it was fake, then you cannot tell. When it comes to Customs Officers, I think that even European ones would not spot it (and you don't have to show it to them!). Outside of Europe (particularly after it has been accepted by the first country), you won't have a problem.
It can be fully personalised, and the serial numbers are different and non-consecutive for each one.
Essentially, Mr Carnet is a Brit traveller who with a bit of nouse has tracked down software/printing inks/special paper (with the perforations etc.) and put the whole lot together. He is not dodgy (all the carnets he has done for people have been correctly addressed etc.), and they are produced to save genuine travellers cash, rather than to facilitate vehicle smuggling.
I think he's going to change his email address (from a marketing point of view the last one was pretty poor!).
His reticence to put more personal details on an internet bulletin board offering potentially illegal services is understandable! I do think, though, that producing and possession of a fake carnet is not illegal, use of is.
That's it. Any more queries, you can contact Inspector Griffiths, Special Investigations (Sting Dept), HM Customs and Excise, Dover.
I'm still trying to puzzle out how this would work in practice. If someone did sell a vehicle covered by one of these (in Egypt, for example), where would the government of Egypt send the request for payment of duties? Normally, they would send it to the issuing auto association. Who is the issuing auto association?
If the carnet lists a legitimate auto association as the issuer, then the first time someone actually claims duties, the auto association is going to check their records and find no record of this being issued. Then what happens? Do they try and track down the traveller at the address on the carnet, or does the government of Egypt have to find you?
Just being paranoid, here. We did forge our registration papers for the bike when Alberta refused to renew it while we were overseas, and never had a problem with it all over Africa and South America. But, no money was involved. Whereas in my experience, customs duties is something that governments take quite seriously.
Firstly (!), you will have no difficulties with Customs on a trans-Africa. They have no reason to believe it's false and don't have a clue about them anyway (they don't see them very often). As I said before, I would challenge anybody to spot the fake ones (if they did not know it's origin).
Secondly (!), if it gets called in! The local government will apply to the issuing organisation (on the one I saw it was ADAC). ADAC will realise it is not one of theirs and send it back to the applying government, "it's not ours, not our problem".
The next obvious step for our Govt. is to follow up the name/address on the carnet. If you had planned all along to sell the car, then this will presumably be fake. If not, then the following should be born in mind:
the AA have had to pay out on only 2 carnets (both in SA, where the vehicles were sold) in the last three years. The RAC on NONE.
You do not export the vehicle because:
Stolen: inform police, after much 'investigation' they stamp the export page of your carnet - you're in the clear.
Crashed/otherwise destroyed: see above
Sold: see bit about fake address - this is not what Mr.Carnet is about.
That's it. AT NO STAGE will anybody get in touch with AA/ADAC/RAC/other issuers unless:
the car was imported and not exported or otherwise signed off - this is regardless of true origins of carnet.
Bear in mind that some countries (ie India) sometimes force you to get the issuer (eg RAC, AA) to fax confirmation that they issued the carnet. This often happens when shipping or air-freighting your car/bike in. They were OK on land borders.
Interesting discussion about the carnets, but some points that people should remember.
In most West African countries POSSESSION of a carnet is illegal, whether it is used or not. People found with one are treated the same as if they have forged cash or passports. I understand that in some European countries it is also illegal asit is a forged car document but Istand corrected on the situation in Europe.
African customs officials are not as thick as some people seem to make out. Several people are caught every year, I know first hand of four cases of people being caught and what happened to them. I have heard several second hand accounts but dont know how reliable they are. The penalties involve confiscation of the car, big fines and in at least two first hand accounts the people were imprisoned. I know of one person who was caught in the interior of Guinea Conakryby a policeman at a village checkpoint and they coughed up 7,000 dollars in bribes before being let go.
I know of four other places in Europe where aforged carnet is available and none of them as of yet have managed to produce a carnet with a watermark which is where most people are caught out.
The following info I cant vouch for it being true or false bu´t maybe someone can verify it or not: I have heard that there is a central registry office (Geneva and Zürich were mentioned) where all carnets worldwide are registered. If in doubt customs can phone/fax them to verify the data on the carnet with that on the register. Anybody know anymore on this?
I definitly agree with the above "you pays your money and you takes your chances" but I can tell you from personal experience that African jails arent much fun either.
Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin - Carnets are fully accepted and used by Customs.
They are international documents and I have never heard (anywhere in the world) where possession of one is illegal. There are countries which do not accept them (China, Laos for example), but there is no inherent problem being in possession of the document.
I would like to know about any documented cases such as Kevin suggests.
Last year I met a german couple in Mali who were found with an unused forged carnet in Abidjan. The car was originally searched for drugs, the carnet was found, the car was confiscated, theypaid about CFA 2,000,000 in fines and were deported.
In 1997 I met a Dutch guy in Dakar airport who was found with an unused forged carnet, he lost his Patrol, paid "a lot of money" and was bailed out by his family after a month in prison. He too was deported.
These are the only two cases I met personally but I have heard of a lot of other accounts.
The offence of using a forged carnet is based on "possession" and "intent". Like I said it is treated similarly as if you were caught with a forged passport, or cash or vehicle papers.
They did not have a watermark, but usually do. I think that it is not usually the correct watermark (something similar), but Mr.Carnet was going to track down a closer match for any genuine enquiries. I will email him to come and look at this thread and then he can answer the concerns mentioned.
PS the carnet does have the impressed boss on the cover.
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