Brazilian customs, the airport kind

A jeweler I know was about to travel to Brazil, and I was reminded of something important to tell him, something that happened to another jeweler, my brother-in-law, Franco. Actually, this warning could apply to anyone stopping over who decided to check valuables with customs on arrival rather than take them into town.

Franco was returning from a buying trip in Milano and stopped over in Rio de Janeiro before continuing to Paraguay, where he and his family had settled after leaving Italy. He checked his locked valise with customs. The valise contained $80,000 worth of merchandise. He returned to the airport next day, produced his receipt and passport, and retrieved the valise from customs.

On boarding his flight he realized the weight of the bag did not feel right. He then unlocked it — and found it filled with stones. The flight was taking off and he could not disembark.

Did he return later and file a complaint? Call the police? Fight the customs authorities? Find recourse through the government? Forget it. He was up against a wall of resistance and layers of bureaucracy, and he surrendered rather than fight.

It took him years to recover from that loss. He had not yet paid the manufacturers for the merchandise, expecting to do so routinely after sale of the goods. The consignment agreement is normal between established jewelers and manufacturers.

Franco’s experience is unimaginable, yet it happened.


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