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In December 2022, the US Court of International Trade ruled against Virtus Nutrition, which sought to challenge a US Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) decision regarding the destruction of imported palm oil shipments. The court upheld CBP’s authority and dismissed the case, showing that companies can only expect to challenge CBP’s decisions regarding goods allegedly made with forced labour through the official CBP route.

  • The case refers to a shipment of palm oil into the US that was detained in 2021 for allegedly being made with forced labour. CBP alleged that the palm oil was subject to a Withhold Release Order (WRO) issued against Sime Darby Plantation and the shipment was detained.
  • Virtus Nutrition, the importer, challenged CBP’s decision with the US Court of International Trade and sought permission to re-export its imported palm oil shipments.
  • On 15 December 2022, the court dismissed the case. It found that CBP had the prerogative power to make decisions regarding good seizures and WRO proceedings.
  • This decision will be important for all WROs, including under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). Companies will need to ensure that they are following the due diligence processes set out in the Operational Guidance for Importers, as there is little recourse to challenge the CBP’s decisions other than through the official CBP route.
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