Sri Lanka: Evidence of Embezzlement
of govt revenue overwhelming
Attorney at Law, Solicitor and the former head of the frauds investigations
[RTF] of Customs administration
Customs investigators have uncovered another massive revenue fraud
committed by organised fraudster mafia with the corroboration of certain
unscrupulous elements in the Customs administration.
According to the discovery, the fraudster elements in the Customs
have accumulated ill-gotten wealth of Rs. 17 million in bribes to
release a shipload of 2690 metric tonnes of palm oil consignment,
grossly undervalued for customs duty purposes. First hand information
obtained within reveals that both Customs Chief and his deputy are
allegedly involved in the fraud.
It is revealed that, whereas the normal market value of Palm oil
was $ 325 to 350 per metric ton, the importer had made a deliberate
false declaration understating the value for customs purposes and
thereby defrauded massive sum of government revenue. Although the
volume of revenue misappropriated by the corrupt officials had come
to light, the scale of the fraud committed by the fraudster importer
is yet to be confirmed.
Questioned by the media the Customs Chief has admitted the revenue
fraud but said that he was not sure about the amount defrauded by
his officers. As customary he has said that that "severe disciplinary
action would be taken" against the wrongdoers.
Shipment release on personal guarantee
Information obtained within further reveals that the palm oil shipment
in issue had been released on a "personal guarantee" recommended
by Director Valuation, and approved by the Customs chief, himself.
Officers claim that release of goods on "personal guarantee"
is against the customs law and such guarantees are not worth the paper
it is given as in most cases such guarantees have found missing after
release of the goods.
Regarding release of "general cargo", customs law or regulations
made there under provide - except for goods released under special
circumstances i.e. bonded goods - no provision whatsoever to the customs
authorities to compromise with suspected revenue fraudsters and defer
the collection of government revenue.
When the settle law governing customs business is such, the law-abiding
officers in the customs administration now demand Customs Chief for
a plausible explanation as to what induced him to release the shipment
in issue on "personal guarantee" which is against the statute.
Particularly in the light of the apparent evidence of attempted revenue
fraud ran into several million rupees, the officers condemn wrongdoing,
pointed out that it is impossible to give any plausible explanation.
Malpractices are common in customs
It is also reported that this is not the first time that this kind
of major fraud exposed, where those who hold high posts in the customs
were found involved. In 2001 then Valuation chief was allegedly involved
in a similar revenue fraud, "Wacachiku steel scam", where
a shipload of steel had been released in similar fashion.
At the investigations conducted after the exposure of the said fraud,
the importer Wacachiku Company has admitted that he deliberately under
stated the value for customs purposes with intent to defraud the revenue.
Then a heavy penalty was imposed on the importer in addition to recovery
of several millions government revenue defrauded by the importer.
It is further revealed that, subsequent to uncovering of the said
fraud, Director was removed from the post of head of the Valuation
Division and the public services commission ordered a disciplinary
inquiry against him. However with no apparent reasons the said disciplinary
inquiry was indefinitely delayed with no inquiry officer appointed
to hear the case.
Now it is learned that the original case record has been removed
by the "interested parties concern" and they demand suspension
of the inquiry in the absence of the original case record. In this
sort of scenario officers say that it is very hard to believe, an
accused in another revenue fraud [action of which is still pending],
as to how he was appointed to be the head of valuation division again.
In this kind of set-up Customs officers are very suspicious about
the integrity of the Customs Chief when he want them to believe that
"severe disciplinary action would be taken" against the
wrongdoers. In an environment where inaction against the organised
wrongdoing is apparent, the right thinking officers who condemn embezzlement
of government revenue believe that DGC's utterance is an insult to
the intelligence of the officers.