19 U.S. Code § 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  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 Merchandise subject to sale hereunder or under section 1559 of this title may be entered or withdrawn for consumption at any time prior to such sale upon payment of all duties, taxes, fees, interest, storage, and other charges, and expenses that may have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) of this section, 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—
(c) Retention, transfer, destruction, or other disposition
If title to any merchandise vests in the United States by operation of subsection (b) of this section, 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.
Whenever any party, having lost a substantial interest in merchandise by virtue of title vesting in the United States under subsection (b) of this section, 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) of this section, or can establish to the satisfaction of the Secretary that the party did not receive notice under subsection (b) of this section, 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
 So in original. The word “in” probably should not appear.
Source(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.)
Provisions similar to those in this section were contained in R.S. §§ 2973, 2975 and 2976, all of which were superseded by act Sept. 21, 1922, ch. 356, title IV, § 491,42 Stat. 963, and repealed by section 642 thereof. Section 491 of the 1922 act was superseded by section 491 of act June 17, 1930, comprising this section, and repealed by section 651(a)(1) of the 1930 act.
1996—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 104–295substituted “in a bonded warehouse pursuant to section 1490” for “in in a bonded warehouse pursuant to section 1490” and “Customs Service” for “appropriate customs officer”.
1993—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 103–182, § 659(1), substituted “in a bonded warehouse pursuant to section 1490 of this title for 6 months” for “customs custody for one year”, “estimated duties, taxes, fees, interest, storage,” for “estimated duties and storage”, “duties, taxes, fees, interest, storage, and other charges, if permitted” for “duties, storage, and other charges, if permitted”, “pursuant to section 1490 of this title in a bonded warehouse for 6 months” for “public store or bonded warehouse for a period of one year”, “duties, taxes, fees, interest, storage, and other charges” for “duties, storage, and other charges”, “duties, taxes, fees, interest, charges, and expenses” for “duties, charges, and expenses”, and “computation of duties, taxes, interest, and fees for the purposes” for “computation of duties for the purposes”.
Subsecs. (b) to (d). Pub. L. 103–182, § 659(2), added subsecs. (b) to (d). Former subsec. (b) redesignated (e).
Subsec. (e). Pub. L. 103–182, § 659(2), (3), redesignatedsubsec. (b) as (e) and substituted “Customs Service” for “appropriate customs officer” in par. (3).
1978—Pub. L. 95–410amended section catchline, designated existing provisions as subsec. (a), and added subsec. (b).
1970—Pub. L. 91–271substituted reference to appropriate customs officer for reference to collector, and struck out reference to appraiser of merchandise.
1938—Act June 25, 1938, amended generally so much of this section as preceded “shall be considered unclaimed and abandoned”.
Effective Date of 1970 Amendment
For effective date of amendment by Pub. L. 91–271, see section 203 ofPub. L. 91–271, set out as a note under section 1500 of this title.
Effective Date of 1938 Amendment
Amendment by act June 25, 1938, effective on thirtieth day following June 25, 1938, except as otherwise specifically provided, see section 37 of act June 25, 1938, set out as a note under section 1401 of this title.
Transfer of Functions
For transfer of functions, personnel, assets, and liabilities of the United States Customs Service of the Department of the Treasury, including functions of the Secretary of the Treasury relating thereto, to the Secretary of Homeland Security, and for treatment of related references, see sections 203 (1), 551 (d), 552 (d), and 557 of Title 6, Domestic Security, and the Department of Homeland Security Reorganization Plan of November 25, 2002, as modified, set out as a note under section 542 of Title 6.
Extension of One-Year Period
For extension of one year period prescribed in this section, see Proc. No. 2948, Oct. 12, 1951, 16 F.R. 10589, 65 Stat. c41, set out as a note under section 1318 of this title.
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