Monday, November 28, 2022

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Sri Lanka Customs crackdown on smugglers of import banned items

Sri Lanka Customs collects over 50 percent of state tax revenue mainly from international trade although trade inflows plunged during the country’s lock down in Covid -19 and current economic crisis, new Director General customs P.B.S.C.Nonis said.

On a daily average, Customs used to clear over 1000 full container loads (FCLs) at import and around 500 FCLs at export and there was no delay in clearance purposely by custom officers, he pointed out.

He noted that the cargo clearance process has now been streamlined with automation and there was no delay in the container clearance except a few suspicious cases.

Most of the custom officers are working diligently with a commitment to collect tax revenue for state coffers; he said adding that the complaints of corruption allegations and irregularity charges in imported goods clearance of migrant workers were baseless.

However he noted that Verifications of the authenticity of licenses, standards, and permits were coordinated via electronic means to ensure expedited release, and final clearance of some of the suspicious importations requiring such documents was put on hold and will be subject to post clearance inspection and audits.

According to Finance Ministry data, Sri Lanka Customs (SLC) is expected to reach the revenue target of Rs.715 billion set for the year in the budget 2022, which is in line with the mid-term goal to increase state revenue to 15 percent of GDP from the current 8 percent.

SLC has been able to reach 60 percent of this target of Rs 715 billion as of 31st of August; a senior treasury official said adding that it can reach the target of Rs.715 billion by the end of this year.

Customs Media Spokesman, Deputy Director of Customs (Legal Affairs) Sudaththa Silva disclosed that the importation of some of the import restricted valuable non essential items via illegal channels and hiding in containers of packages of goods of migrant workers in the Middle East has been increased during the past couples of years and at present as well.

The unscrupulous businessmen who were affected by import restrictions were in the practice of smuggling banned non essential items along with packages of migrant workers in shipments had to be detained by the customs for inspection and necessary action to confiscate such items, he revealed.

This procedure will take some time and custom officers involved in inspections have no other option other than keeping the containers in warehouses for several days he said adding that it will inconvenience genuine persons sending goods to their loved ones here in Sri Lanka alike.

Routine cargo selectivity criteria were tailored to release medium and low risk cargo with minimum or no Customs intervention.

As a result, around 70 percent of importations selected for examination through non-intrusive cargo scanning equipment were released without inspection, he disclosed.

However several affected persons complained that the Revenue Task Force of the Customs was in the practice of detaining 95 percent of containers being arrived at warehouses for clearance for several days on suspicion of smuggled goods tip offs of nonexistent informants.

They claimed that they had to pay US$ 50 per day as delayed payments including informants’ share of 30 percent, penalty charge of 30 percent and customs fund 10 percent. And only 30 percent goes to state coffers.

Responding to these allegations, the Customs Department noted that action will be taken to confiscate or re-export non-essential goods smuggled into the country.

Earlier, the Customs took steps to release goods brought to the country by charging fines and this practice has been suspended at present, Customs department sources said.

Penalties on late reporting of manifests or other documentation were waved as well as port/airport demurrage charges at the request of traders, it added.

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