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Customs uncovers falsification of documents by shipping companies, agents

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Two shipping businesses and clearing agents are accused of falsifying information on trade documents in order to avoid paying taxes, according to the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).

According to allegations, clearing agents colluded with shipping lines to allegedly falsify data on their manifests and bills of lading, including inaccurate descriptions of the commodities, in order to achieve priority clearance and avoid paying taxes to the state.

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A tax evasion of GH10.15 million was discovered after an audit carried out during initial inquiries into the case of one of the bills of entry.

Demand letters have been sent out to recover any missed taxes for the state, along with fines and potential legal action against the offenders.

Due to continuing investigations, the identities of the shipping firms and agents have not been disclosed.

Seidu Iddrisu Iddisah, the commissioner of customs, who verified this in an interview, claimed that intelligence was used to learn about the actions of the two shipping lines and importers.

According to him, it was discovered that some of the bills of lading filed for the items’ clearance at the Tema Port had incorrect information.

Furthermore, a physical inspection revealed that the items in the container did not match the descriptions on the bill of entry (BOE).

He said that despite the container’s other contents, including boots, bags, belts, undergarments, and galvanized pipes, it was marked on the label as holding knapsack sprayers.

Alhaji Iddisah claimed that after the discovery, the Internal and Post Clearance Audit (PCA) department of the division was given the task of conducting an audit on the importers and agents responsible for the alleged illegal act in accordance with sections seven and nine of the Customs Act 2015 (Act 891) and the World Customs Organization Revised Kyoto Convention.

23 BOEs in all were inspected, 22 of which belonged to one shipping line and had entries that were devalued in order to pay less in taxes and charges.

It also revealed that certain clearing agencies processed customs declarations with false information in an effort to pay less in taxes and duties, while the clearing agents also produced cloned declarations with accurate product descriptions, values, and duty rates and collected the taxes and charges.

It was also discovered that the local shipping line had fabricated the bills of lading from the shipping lines and the invoices declared to Customs.

According to Alhaji Iddisah, the firms acknowledged over the course of the investigations that their officers had fabricated the true description of the commodities.

He said that in order to determine whether other businesses had also engaged in illicit activity at the port during the previous six years, management had chosen to broaden its investigations.

The commissioner stated that investigations were underway to determine the extent of importers’ participation as well.

Alhaji Iddisah stated that his organization has relocated the monitoring operations from the ports to the headquarters in order to ensure efficient oversight.

Other options include establishing a holding area where correctly cleared products might be reviewed and, if required, reexamined as well as facilitating quick clearing via the green channel system.

 

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