The opinion of the court was delivered by: GALSTON
This matter comes before the court on exceptions by the claimants of the Norwegian steamship Reidun to the libel of the United States, which seeks forfeiture of the vessel; and on exceptions of the owners to the answer of the United States to the possessory libel of the owners.
It appears that the Reidun sailed from Antwerp, Belgium, on October 23, 1935, with a general cargo including approximately 20,000 cases of Belgian alcohol, and with clearance for ports in New-foundland and other Canadian ports. On November 10, 1935, she arrived at a point on the high seas approximately 120 miles south of Saint Pierre at Miquelon. The libel alleges that the master of the vessel then, and on subsequent days in November, 1935, caused large quantities of Belgian alcohol to be unladen from the steamship, and caused the alcohol so unladen to be transshipped on other vessels including several speed boats, one of which was the British oil screw Pronto. The unlading, transshipment, and placing of the cargo were, it is so alleged, effected for the purpose of introducing the alcohol, or part thereof, into the United States without payment of customs duties. It is alleged that the place of transshipment on the high seas was adjacent to the customs waters of the United States and convenient for the purpose of unlawful importation into the United States.
Subsequently to the unlading, the British oil screw Pronto proceeded into the coastal and territorial waters of the United States and on January 20, 1936, while in the territorial waters of the United States, was seized in the vicinity of Charleston, S.C., by United States Coast Guard and customs officers. The Pronto then had on board a cargo of Belgian alcohol consisting of 765 cases containing 4,785 gallons which had been a part of the cargo of the steamship Reidun and which had been unladen from that vessel. Thereafter, on or about March 17, 1936, the Reidun, while at anchor in New York Harbor and within the port of New York, was seized by agents of the Collector of Customs for violation of the customs revenue laws of the United States, and the vessel is now in that customs collection district in the possession of the United States of America.
The libel alleges breach of the probisions of the Act of Congress of August 5, 1935, c. 438, and particularly of the provisions thereof contained in title 2, § 205, 49 Stat. 524 (U.S.Code, title 19, § 1586 (b), 19 U.S.C.A. § 1586(b), and title 2, § 208, 49 Stat. 526 (U.S.Code, title 19, § 483(a), 19 U.S.C.A. § 483(a). Two causes of forfeiture are stated. The first for violation of the provisions of the U.S.Code, title 19, § 1586(b), and section 483 (a), 19 U.S.C.A. §§ 483(a), 1586(b); the second cause of forfeiture is for violation of the provisions of U.S.Code, title 19, § 483(a), 19 U.S.C.A. § 483(a).
The pertinent provisions of U.S.Code, title 19, § 1586(b), 19 U.S.C.A. § 1586(b), are:
"(b) The master of any vessel from a foreign port * * * who allows any merchandise * * * which consists of any spirits, wines, or other alcoholic liquors, to be unladen from his vessel at any place upon the high seas adjacent to the customs waters of the United States to be transshipped to or placed in or received on any vessel of any description, with knowledge, or under circumstances indicating the purpose to render it possible, that such merchandise * * * may be introduced, or attempted to be introduced, into the United States in violation of law, shall be liable to a penalty equal to twice the value of the merchandise * * * and the vessel from which the merchandise is so unladen, and its cargo * * * shall be seized and forfeited."
Section 483 of the same act provides in part as follows:
"Forfeitures; penalty for aiding unlawful importation.
"(a) All vessels, with the tackle, apparel, and furniture thereof, and all vehicles, animals, aircraft, and things with the tackle, harness, and equipment thereof, used in, or employed to aid in, or to facilitate by obtaining information or otherwise, the unlading, bringing in, importation, landing, removal, concealment, harboring, or subsequent transportation of any merchandise upon the same or otherwise unlawfully introduced, or attempted to be introduced into the United States, shall be seized and forfeited."
The parties have stipulated that the place, approximately 120 miles south of Saint Pierre, Miquelon, where the unlading took place, was more than 500 miles and something less than 600 miles from the nearest point of the United States or any of its customs enforcement areas or customs waters; and that Charleston, S.C., where the British oil screw Pronto was seized, was more than 1,000 miles from the point 120 miles south of Saint Pierre, Miquelon. A part of the Treaty between Norway and the United States, entered into on May 24, 1924 (43 Stat. 1772), is included in the stipulation.
The critical question involved in the determination of the sufficiency of the libel is the meaning to be attached to the phrase, "adjacent to the customs waters of the United States." Was the place on the high seas at which the transshipment took place adjacent to the customs waters of the United States within the meaning of the act?
The statute became effective August 5, 1935, after the repeal of the Prohibition Act (41 Stat. 305), and, of course, was designed to make more rigid the exclusion of contraband liquors.The reports of the Committee on Finance of the United States Senate, and of the Committee of Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, disclose that the Treasury Department was much concerned over the alarming increase in alcohol smuggling and that defects in the then existing provisions of the revenue laws made it necessary to provide additional legislation. The provisions here in question relate to activities of carriers of contraband liquors hovering off the coast of the United States. Before the enactment of the Anti-Smuggling Act of 1935 (19 U.S.C.A. § 1701 et seq.) the activities of carriers of contraband liquor were not branded as a statutory offense so long as they took place without the four league limit established over a century ago. Therefore the act provides for the establishment of customs enforcement areas, in which smuggling vessels are found to be present, which are adjacent to but outside the 12-mile limit. Accordingly, section 1701(a), 19 U.S.C.A., of the act authorizes the President to establish such customs enforcement areas adjacent to customs waters. This important and novel section reads in part as follows:
"Whenever the President finds and declares that at any place or within any area on the high seas adjacent to but outside customs waters any vessel or vessels hover * * * and that, by virtue of the presence of any such vessel or vessels at such place or within such area, the unlawful introduction * * * into * * * the United States of any merchandise * * * is being * * * occasioned, promoted, or threatened, the place or area so found and declared shall constitute a customs-enforcement area for the purposes of this chapter. Only such waters on the high seas shall be within a customs-enforcement area as the President ...