-Chinese embassy denies any wrongdoings
A complaint of what seemed an abnormally large number of containers cleared by the Chinese embassy has sparked numerous calls for the tighter scrutiny when it comes to Customs checks on the local wharves.
A report carried in Kaieteur News yesterday immediately saw the Chinese embassy issuing a statement denying the contents of the story and even threatening legal action.
Several local businessmen have since insisted that there are major problems with clearing of containers of goods at the wharves with corruption creating an unfair playing field for them.
A number of businesses persons, who descended on Kaieteur News, insisted that the container racket has been a public secret in the commercial district of Georgetown.
“Frankly sir, we are afraid to talk as we had raised this in the past and were immediately targeted. We are checked almost 100 percent of the times but the same yardstick is not meted out to certain people.”
It was insisted that the fraud is complicated and goes to the top, including the quality section in the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) where decisions are made for random checking of containers to ensure that they have what is being declared.
“I can tell you that while we are targeted, it will be found easily that Chinese containers are almost never checked 100 percent when they come into the country. We are saying that they should be checked. Take one container and do a 100 percent check. It will take three days but it will tell what is happening.”
It was explained that in addition to some brokers being paid to fast-track containers and pay off Customs officers, there are other ways of defrauding the system.
“For example, VAT charges are not applied to containers under $15M. Guess what? There are several persons who are clearing containers on behalf of a particular customer so to avoid these VAT charges. GRA should check these people.”
Kaieteur News was told yesterday that it is a fact that while many businesses, especially Chinese-owned businesses are registered, most of them are not paying VAT.
“If you want to prove what we saying, ask GRA to provide a list of how many Chinese businesses are here and how many are registered and paying VAT. The list will give you the ammunition to make some further checks and you will find some startling answers.”
The businessmen insisted that Customs officers are experienced in checking and assessing boxes.
“There are standard ways how clothes like shirts are packed in a box. It could hold for example 72 shirts of various sizes and colours. Some smart importers, we have been told, are crooking the work by packing maybe 250 shirts in each box. But they declare 72. Guyana loses taxes.”
Another well-known way is that the goods are under-valued.
“We also know of cases of importers submitting fake invoices with fake addresses to GRA. Imagine also some containers holding televisions but being declared as clothes. There are indeed some clothes in front to fool the Customs officer who is not paying attention.”
The smuggling issue would raise deep worry for GRA which has been struggling to tackle corruption.
A new board is in place with Commissioner-General Godfrey Statia signalling last year that he was taking a zero-tolerance to corruption. A number of staffers have been sent home for being involved in corruption.
It was reported in Kaieteur News yesterday that GRA had reportedly complained to the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the abnormally high number of containers that the Chinese embassy reportedly cleared last year.
However, the embassy yesterday denied any such thing.
This is their statement:
“Chinese Embassy Statement on Kaieteur News “Container” Report
Chinese Embassy in Guyana solemnly states that the report “Chinese Embassy container imports attract GRA’s attention” by Kaieteur News dated February 23, 2017 is baseless and unsubstantiated. The Chinese Embassy will further investigate this matter and reserves the right to take legal actions.”
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