Flagstaff House Chases Lebanese & Indian Importers

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To Retrieve GH¢47. Million Duties and Taxes

The Special Operations Unit at the Office of the President, is going after two companies owned by Lebanese and Indian nationals, for owing the state a total of GH¢ 47,412, million in taxes and duties they evaded, after importing steel into the country.

The two companies; United Steel and B5 Plus, according to Flagstaff House insiders, have since been warned sternly that they risk criminal prosecution should they fail to settle the GH¢47,412 million, they owe the State, including a calculated penalty.

The importers, who operated bonded warehouses, had sold their goods here in Ghana, but fraudulently claimed they had re-exported them to neighbouring countries for sale, to avoid paying the required taxes and duties here in Ghana.

They were said to have criminally given registration numbers of motorbikes, saloon cars, as vehicles which were used in the re-exportation exercise, all in an effort to avoid trace. But the smartness of the Special Operations Unit, which saw them spending time at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), Ghana High Authority (GHA), exposed the fraudulent acts of the importers.

A document in the custody of The Herald, revealed that the companies were given last August, “to pay all outstanding duties and taxes owed to government … or face the imposition of severe penalties and prosecution”.

But this paper is informed that the companies, instead of settling their indebtedness, are desperately calling officials of the Special Operations Unit on phone begging for private meetings with the intent of trying to compromise some members of the Unit by way of bribe.

The huge amount owed the government, was discovered by the Unit after an in-depth investigation into the operations of the companies, spanning 2009 to 2010, especially their use of the Customs Management Ghana System (CMGS).

The Herald’s insiders told this paper that “The report of the investigation shows that since 2009 some bonded warehouse operators, have been engaged in fraudulent declarations that allow them to evade payment of duties”.

What Is Re-Exportation In The Bonded Warehouse Regime
Re-exportation is the process by which goods are exported normally to neighboring countries, after the goods have been imported into Ghana.

Under the bonded warehouse regime companies are required to make declarations in Ghana Customs Management System using the re-exportation code (37). Secondly companies engaged in re-exportation are also required to list the vehicles used in the transaction in the system,

The Case For The Investigation
For time now there has been some disquiet about fraudulent practices in the operation of the bonded warehouse regime in Ghana. Apart from the payment of duties and taxes way outside the time limit allowed by the law which was reported in the media over the past few months, one critical area of fraud is in re-exportation of goods imported into the country.

The fraud takes place when companies deliberately make false declarations by ‘over-loading vehicles with weight.
The SOU therefore set out to investigation declarations made by various companies in respect of re-exportation.

The Law Relation To Falsication Of Documents

It is an offence under Section 249 of the Customs, Excise & Preventive Service (Management) law, 1993 to make a false declaration. The law states that:
(1) If any person knowingly or recklessly –
(a) Makes or signs or cause to be made or to be signed, so delivers or cause to be delivered to the Commissioner or an officer, any declaration, notice, certificate or other document whatsoever; or
(b) Makes any statement in answer to any question put to him an officer, acting in execution of his duty,

Being a document or statement produced or made for any purpose or any assigned matter, which is untrue in any material particular, he shall be guilty of an offence under the subsection and may be detained: and any goods in relation to which the document or statement was made shall be forfeited.

(2) If any person in any matter relating to this law –
(a) Makes and signs or causes to be made and signed any false declaration or any declaration certificate or other instrument required to be verified by signature only, which is false in any material particular; or
(b) Refuses to answer any question put to him by any officer acting in the execution of his duty;
Shall be guilty on an offence under this subsection and may be detained; and any goods in respect of which the offence was committed shall be forfeited.

(3) Where by reason of the offence specified in subsection (1) or (2) the full amount of any duty payable is not paid, the offending person –

(a) Shall incur a penalty not exceeding three times the amount not paid in addition to forfeiture of the goods; or
(b) The offending person shall be liable on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both;

Methodology
The SOU established a number of indicators which it used in concluding whether or not “overloading” had taken place. These include the following;
a. Date on which re-exportation declaration was made,
b. Description of the items leaving the warehouse,
c. Registration number of vehicles to covey the goods,
d. Maximum weight limit for each vehicle as defined by DVLA and /or Ghana Highways Authority,
e. Total weight of goods clear in the system,
f. Total weight of goods carried by the vehicles listed in the declaration,
g. The difference between what was cleared and what was actually carried by the vehicle,
h. The CIF value of the goods cleared in the system,
i. The ratio of CIF goods which could not have been re-exported,
j. The estimated duty lost due to the diversion onto the local market.

The Investigation
A. A list all locally registered vehicles listed has having been used in the re-exportation was sent to the DVLA for official confirmation of the weight limit for each vehicle.
B. The Ghana Highway Authority was also asked to advise on the weight limit for foreign register vehicles. The maximum allowed in 2009 was given as 51 metric tons.

Findings
a. Knowing the regulations governing the transportation of goods across the sub-region, one can conclude that extra loads were diverts onto the local market.

b. The extra weight recorded in each transaction represented the consignment which could not have been re-exported. Since the consignment had been “written off” in the system the conclusion is that the “overloading” was deliberate and meant to evade payment of duty of the extra goods which were dumped onto the local market.

COMPANY YEAR AMT OF DUTY LOST 300% PENALTY
A 2009 GH 10,353,056 cedis GH31,059,168 cedis
B 2010 GH 4,785,217 cedis GH14, 355, 651 cedis
C 2010 GH 666, 020 cedis GH1, 998, 060 cedis
TOTAL GH 15,804, 293 cedis GH 47,412,879 cedis
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More To Come!

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