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02.08.2005 General News

Tax Evasion Deal Exposed


The Customs,Excise and Preventive Service(CEPS) has exposed the tricks adopted by some importers to dodge the payment of taxes and duties to the state.

In one of the scams, two containers in which imitated Malboro cigarette brands were concealed as rubber shoes would have caused revenue loss to the state to the tune of ¢7.995 billion if the importers had succeeded in their deal.

Two other containers believed to contain used clothing were cleared from the port without the payment of taxes and duties,while in the case of the containers containing the Malboro cigarettes,customs officials detected that their owners wanted to clear the items from China disguised as rubber shoes.

The Assistant Commissioner of CEPS in charge of Tema, Mr Africanus Owusu-Ansah, who disclosed the modus operandi of the syndicate to the Graphic,said three other importers who also attempted to illegally clear two vehicles loaded with used clothing had been arrested.

Such unscrupulous characters have,over the past two months caused revenue loss to the state running into billions of cedis by disguising some of the imported items as a way of outwitting customs officials at the Tema Port.

Mr Owusu-Ansah explained that,some time in June this year, CEPS had a hint that a vessel leaving Yantian in China for Accra was believed to contain some contraband goods and CEPS officials were,subsequently,alerted to be on the look out for the vessel,Sally Maersk.

He said on June 22,2005, Santa Shipping Agencies made an attempt to clear the two containers which were allegedly meant for trans-shipment to France from the Tema Port.But when the contents were examined, they were found to be "imitated Malboro brand of cigarettes."

He indicated that the declaration on the bill of laden that accompanied the cargo showed that the items on board were polyvinyl chloride (PVC)shoes (rubber shoes) and consigned to Balance Imports and Exports of Post Office Box 307 in Suhum in the Estern Region, but when it was thoroughly checked, "only 67 out of the 1991 packets in the two containers were the rubber shoes, while the rest turned out to be imitated Malboro brand of cigarettes."

Mr Owusu-Ansah said he, therefore, instructed that the containers be impounded, while investigations were to be carried out.

He said the importers used the rubber shoes to conceal the identity of the cigarettes "because it had the same scent as nicotine, although nicotine had a more pungent smell."

The Assistant Commissioner of CEPS, who showed the Graphic some of the fake Malboro cigarettes, indicated that CEPS could not guarantee the quality status of the cigarettes.

He said when information reached him on July 28,2005 that some containers had also been cleared from the port without paying duties and taxes,he immediately wrote to the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority(GPHA)to help track down the containers.

Mr Owusu-Ansah said on July 22,2005,Eric Adiama of Santa Shipping Agencies was alleged to have entered a declaration for the two containers which he claimed contained used clothing.

He indicated that since the contents of the two containers were not checked by customs officers,they could not authenticate whether the contents were used clothing,arms and amunition or other contraband goods.

"The security of the state is of major concern to all of us and what we are not even sure of is whether there are arms, amunition or other types of contraband goods which pose a threat to the state," he said.

Mr Owusu-Ansah said in the third operation,two vehicles were intercepted by CEPS and when the drivers were quizzed, they claimed that the contents,were used clothing.

He,however,said when the vehicles were thoroughly searched,they found that fake wax prints were concealed in the bails.

Three persons,Kwesi Bediako,Albert Anum and Foster Anim were consequently arrested to help in investigations in connection with the imported imitated wax prints.

When asked whether the security at the Tema Port was not sloppy and whether the scanning machines there were not ineffecient,Mr Owusu-Ansah indicated that CEPS officials were constrained in terms of numbers at the port and that some containers that came through shipping agencies such as Atlas,Maersk and TCT Agencies were not scanned.

"We have only 398 officers and men stationed at the Tema Harbour and this number includes drivers,messengers and other supporting staff.So we are seriously contrained in terms of numbers," he said.

He,however,added that what CEPS was now trying to do, despite the limited number,was to make sure that every container that came through the port was manually numbered in order to reduce fraud.

Mr Owusu-Ansah made it clear that CEPS was a human institution and that there were bound to be miscreants who could be helping the syndicates to carry out their nefarious activities against the state and added that"they would,however,be weeded out any time we get them."