Santa Shipping Agency Limited, a Tema-based shipping agency, is to be banned from operating in any port in Ghana.
This follows adverse findings made against the company by the committee established last July to investigate the circumstances under which two 40-footer containers were smuggled out of the Tema Port.
The committee recommended the withdrawal of the licence of Mr Eric Adiamah, a director and shareholder of Santa Shipping Agency Limited, for his failure to pay duties on hair and beauty products contained in the 40-footer containers.
His action, the committee found, led to the loss of millions of cedis to the state.
It further recommended that Adiamah and two others should be made to pay ¢2.1 billion being duties and penalties on the two 40-footer containers of hair and beauty products.
Adiamah, Kwaku Amponsah, an importer and David Martey, also of Santa Shipping Agency Limited, and four others were found culpable after the four-member committee had completed its investigations into the matter.
They were all indicted for paying ¢72.6 million instead of the real figure of ¢542.5 million on the hair and beauty products, resulting in the loss of ¢469.4 million to the state.
The committee recommended that two officers of Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS), namely Messrs Edward Osei-Tutu and Evans Amewu, “should be commended for insisting on doing the right thing and for not allowing themselves to be influenced by these miscreants”.
The committee, which was headed by Lt. Col. M. Yahaya (retd), carried out the investigations following a report from the Security Co-ordinator at the Port of Tema that two 40-footer containers had been removed from the port without payment of the necessary duties, taxes and charges sometime in July 2005.
According to the committee's report, Adiamah allegedly used Martey to facilitate the implementation of his plan and with the assistance of Israel Korley, a machine foreman of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Edmund Erzuah, Port Security, GPHA, Godhold Agbley, port security, GPHA and Sgt. John K. Annor, a policeman at the Harbour Police Station, Tema.
The committee, whose members comprised Mr Edward Noi, Deputy Commissioner, CEPS, Mr N. N. Sheini from the National Security Co-ordinator's Secretariat and Mr P. K. Agblor, an Assistant Commissioner of Police/INTERPOL, recommended punitive measures against the other accomplices.
It, therefore, recommended that Korley and Erzuah be dismissed for their roles in the criminal act and dereliction of duty respectively, adding that “Sgt. Annor should be redeployed outside the port and should be banned from entering any port in Ghana. In addition, his conduct should be reported to his employers for appropriate action”.
The committee pointed out that although the Managing Director and owner of Santa Shipping Agency denied knowledge of the tax evasion, he (Managing Director) should be held liable for what took place.
According to the committee, the fact that Adiamah was able to hatch a plan to evade import duties and actually succeeded in executing it, was an indication that the port security arrangement was still ineffective.
“After talking to more than a dozen people performing various duties at the port, it is clear that some of the persons engaged to ensure that importers do not evade tax, rather allow themselves to be influenced in their duties by monetary rewards from both importers and clearing agents,” it said
It also concluded that there was a weak link in both the security and clearance systems at the port.
It therefore, recommended that “a thorough security inspection of the scanning area should be conducted as a matter of urgency. This exercise should be extended to the entire port at a later date,” the committee counselled.
The facts, as presented by the committee, were that Amponsah, who is a director and shareholder of Top Curls Ltd, London, as well as Managing Director of Salon Services (Gh) Ltd, imported the two 40-footer containers of hair and beauty products into the country in June, 2005 and engaged Adiamah to clear the goods.
Amponsah discussed with Adiamah the possibility of finding ways and means by which his goods would attract lower duty and tax.
Consequently, Amponsah gave various sums of money totalling ¢175 million towards the clearing of the goods to Adiamah, the report stated.
According to the committee, Adiamah allegedly hatched a plan to remove from the port the two 40-footer containers, without the payment of the necessary duty and tax.
In furtherance of this, Adiamah allegedly applied to Oceanic Roro Shipping Services for an amendment of the original bill of lading to read used clothing instead of hair and beauty products, the report said.
“He also by the same application, requested that the consignee be changed from Top Curls Ltd/Salon Services of P. O. Box C 1304, Cantonments, Accra, Ghana to Time Tells Co. Ltd, P. O. Box 8114, Tema,” the report said.
After the act, Adiamah, on July 22, 2005, allegedly began processing documents in respect of used clothing to cover his trail and accordingly, approached the two CEPS officers for assistance but they (customs officers) blatantly refused and insisted on adhering to the laid-down procedure.
The committee also discovered that Santa Shipping Agency Ltd later paid duty and taxes amounting to ¢61.9 million in the name of Time Tells Co Ltd at ECOBANK, Harbour branch, Tema, in respect of used clothing, on July 22, 2005 while Santa Shipping Agency Ltd paid ¢10.7 million being rent and handling charges and taxes to GHAPOHA in respect of the two 40-footer containers also on July 22, 2005.
In the course of the investigation, the committee discovered that Kwaku Amponsah had earlier in March, 2005 imported a 40-footer container full of hair products and paid ¢34 million as duty and taxes instead of ¢304 million.
Sixteen witnesses, including the culprits, officials of Oceanic Roro Shipping Tema, CEPS, GPHA, two drivers of the articulated trucks that loaded the goods from the ports to a warehouse in Accra and port security, were called to testify at the committee.