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HP subject of customs inquiry

U.S. officials are investigating whether company workers illegally shipped $6 million worth of merchandise without paying duties.

U.S. customs officials are investigating whether Hewlett-Packard workers illegally shipped $6 million worth of computer merchandise without paying the proper duties, an HP spokesman said.

The investigation, which began last summer, stems from paperwork that had been filed late for shipments of printers and monitors refurbished for HP by Artesyn Solutions as part of a "foreign trade zone" agreement. Under that designation, the company does not have to pay duties until the products have been shipped to the consumer.

HP terminated the contract with Artesyn last year and hired an independent auditor to investigate, said David Hargarten, an HP spokesman. The company already has paid $75,000 in back duties, and was surprised when customs agents arrived at its Roseville, California, plant last week looking for more information.

"We really feel like this has already been cleared up," Hargarten said. "HP believes that they've done nothing wrong and that the final resolution will bear that out."

Artseyn executives had no comment, and U.S. customs officials could not be reached for comment.