In accordance with the Court’s case-law, the concept of unlawful removal from customs supervision, as referred to in Article 203(1) of the Customs Code, must be understood as encompassing any act or omission the result of which is to prevent, if only for a short time, the competent customs authority from gaining access to goods under customs supervision and from monitoring them as provided for in Article 37(1) of the Customs Code (Cases C‑66/99 D. Wandel EU:C:2001:69, paragraph 47; C‑371/99 Liberexim EU:C:2002:433, paragraph 55, and C‑337/01 Hamann International EU:C:2004:90, point 31).
Under Article 96 of the Customs Code, since the principal is required, amongst other things, to present the goods once again, intact, at the customs office at the place of destination — the transit document under cover of which carriage of goods under the Community external transit system is effected undeniably plays an essential role in the proper functioning of that system. Thus a removal of those goods, even if only temporary, is likely to undermine the very objectives of that system where, contrary to the requirements of Article 37 of the Customs Code, it prevents any possible requisition of those goods by the customs service. Such removal also complicates the identification both of the goods which are subject to the transit procedure and of the customs regime applicable to them (see, by analogy, Case C‑222/01 British American Tobacco EU:C:2004:250, paragraph 52).
In such circumstances, the temporary removal of the transit document from the goods listed therein must be characterised as a removal of those goods from customs supervision. In accordance with the interpretation given by the Court in its judgments in D. Wandel EU:C:2001:69, Liberexim EU:C:2002:433 and Hamann International EU:C:2004:90, such removal does constitute an act which has the effect of preventing the competent customs authority, even if only temporarily, from having access to goods under customs supervision and carrying out the controls prescribed by European Union customs legislation (see, to that effect, British American Tobacco EU:C:2004:250, point 53).
Similarly, it must be borne in mind that, according to settled case-law, removal of goods from customs supervision requires only that certain objective conditions be met, such as the absence of the goods from the approved place of storage at the time when the customs authorities intend to carry out an examination of them (see D. Wandel EU:C:2001:69, paragraph 48, and Liberexim EU:C:2002:433, paragraph 60.)
It is therefore sufficient, for there to be ‘removal from customs supervision’, for the goods in question to have been objectively removed from possible controls, whether or not such controls have actually been carried out by the competent authority (British American Tobacco EU:C:2004:250, paragraph 55).
In the light of the foregoing considerations, the answer to the first question is that Articles 50 and 203 of the Customs Code must be interpreted as meaning that an article left for temporary storage must be deemed to have been removed from customs supervision if it is declared for an external Community transit procedure, but it does not in fact leave the storage facility and is not presented to the customs office at the place of destination, although the transit documents have been presented there.
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