About seventy vehicles have been impounded at the Tema Port after their 'owners' failed to provide evidence of certificate of ownership or sale from the country of import.
The move followed reports received by the government that Ghana was becoming a destination for stolen vehicles from overseas.
Most of the impounded vehicles are luxurious ones, including Murano, BMW S5, Accurex MDS, Infinity FX 35, Infinity QX 56, VW Tuareq, Toyota Rav 4 and Audi Q7.
This was revealed to the Daily Graphic when it followed up on the complaint of an importer that his car had been impounded at the Tema Port for unknown reasons.
Some of the vehicles have already been sent to the Central Telecommunications Workshop (CTW) for safekeeping to allow more space at the Tema Port Car Park, while others are yet to be taken to the CTW.
The owner of a Honda Ridgeline 4 claimed that he bought the car in June 2006. However, the documents he provided showed that the car was manufactured in 2007.
The Tema Port Security Co-ordinator, Major Mahmud Sita (retd), who took his time to conduct the Daily Graphic team to the places where the vehicles had been parked, explained that following reports that the country was becoming a destination for stolen vehicles and insurance fraud in 2004, measures were put in place to halt the practice.
Accordingly, he said, all the security agencies operating at the port met to outline measures to facilitate the exercise, which was meant to redeem the country's image.
Major Sita said among the measures was the requirement that certificates of title or origin, retail sales or bills of sales or any officially authorised evidence of bonafide ownership of vehicles be provided at the port.
He said after a series of deliberations with other stakeholders at the port, the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) put out an advertisement in the newspapers in 2005 to inform the public about the new requirements.
He said if after all those notices people still failed to provide the requisite documentation, then “there is nothing we can do”.
Major Sita showed copies of letters from some countries indicating the theft of those vehicles which had been impounded here.
He said when such notices came, the security agencies could only keep custody of the vehicles until otherwise directed.
He cited the case of some 14 vehicles which were discovered by the Minister of Ports and Railways, Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, on August 12, 2004 which were manifested as used clothing.
“All those vehicles are parked at the CTW, after Canada confirmed that they were stolen from that country. We want to make it unprofitable for people to bring stolen vehicles into the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Security has described as inaccurate and misleading suggestions that some officials of the ministry were refusing to release vehicles to their owners, although they had paid their duties.
“Some of the importers or consignees know about the dubious circumstances under which the vehicles were imported into Ghana but proceeded to pay taxes and duties ahead of the investigations which were being conducted,” it said.
This was contained in a statement issued by the ministry in reaction to a publication in The Searchlight that two senior officers of the ministry had refused to release 14 luxury cars to their owners, although they had paid the taxes and duties on them and that the whereabouts of the vehicles were unknown.
It said reports from its external sources in 2004 indicated that Ghana had been labelled as a destination for stolen cars, hence the need to tighten security at the points of entry.
It said following that decision, importers and consignees were asked to provide documentary evidence, notably certificates of title to confirm ownership of vehicles being imported into Ghana.
“Contrary to what some people may think, this new regulation was introduced with the consent of CEPS and all the stakeholders,” it said, adding that “publications and announcements were made to inform all and sundry about the new requirement by CEPS”.
The statement said since it was anticipated that investigations in respect of ownership of unmanifested/stolen vehicles would take long periods, and for the avoidance of huge demurrage charges to be incurred by the owners, it was agreed between the Ministry of National Security and CEPS that such vehicles be parked at the CTW until further notice.
“It is also pertinent to point out that when INTERPOL confirms that vehicles are stolen, some of them are returned to the countries from where they were stolen.
In such cases, officials from the countries of origin of the vehicles arrange for the return of the vehicles to the original owners,” it said.
Story by Albert K. Salia