End Customs swindles
The Customs has
bared a Rs 5 billion plus tax fraud involving a leading vehicle
importer according to our main story yesterday. He has done this
by producing fraudulent documents ostensibly for the import of
single door cabs to evade a higher tax charged for the double
cabs what he actually imported.
This kind of Customs swindle are frequently being exposed in
the press but the gravity of these crimes appear to be lost on
the public who will be the eventual losers due to the massive
loss of State revenue that could be used for their benefit.
Therefore steps should be taken to plug all the loopholes used
by the racketeers to swindle the State through tax evasion.
The country cannot afford to forego billions by way of lost
revenue in this fashion. The Government cannot afford to let
this State of affairs continue and allow racketeers to enrich
themselves at the expense of the State and the general public.
It is also unfair on the public on whom all types of taxes are
imposed while the rich and the influential get away by default.
According to our report the importer in question has failed
to pay the additional fine to get the detained vehicles released
and that he was anticipating political influence to do the
trick. This has always been the fall back option of big
businessmen who have cultivated politicians for just such
purpose. Not long ago a well known business tycoon was similarly
nabbed for altering invoices to cheat on taxes. After the
initial brouhaha the matter died a natural death. No one would
know how many billions were denied to the State coffers as a
There have been other well-known instances where
investigations into massive tax dodging was put under the raps.
Today, while the focus is on the bribery and corruption in the
State sector the massive swindles carried out by the private
sector businessmen and entrepreneurs hardly register with the
It is no secret that the worst offenders in this respect are
some of the best known names in the corporate sector whose
outward reputation and standing has shielded them from exposure.
They have cleverly cultivated politicians of all hues to give
them insurance from detection. It is also well-known that some
unscrupulous customs officers are heavily involved in shielding
these businessmen to help them get away with tax fraud. They are
well looked after with huge monetary rewards and lavish
Of course not all Customs officers are guilty in this
regard.A majority of them perform their duties conscientiously.
But there is no escaping the fact that there is a minority among
them who work hand in glove with the racketeers.
Hence there is an urgent need to put things in order. To
begin with the nexus between the big businessmen, politicians
and customs officers should be severed, or else tax fraud is
bound to flourish at great loss to the State. firm action should
be taken to stem the rot and put the Customs Department in
order. Strict instructions should be issued to the Customs
hierarchy to ignore political influence and ensure all importers
comply with tax laws.
It is time that the Customs which operates as an exclusive
and privileged club among the State sector institutions get its
act together.It is also time the Aegean stables are cleaned and
Customs which has earned a not very complimentary reputation be
made to repair its image. True, with the Customs being the
country’s economic nerve centre and the gateway for the inflow
of foreign goods into the country this is no easy task. The
power wielded by the Customs mafia to secure their empires is
also well- known. We also saw how intrigue involved within the
Customs Department saw the murder of many Senior customs
investigators probing sensitive cases.
All this should be taken into account when formulating a
comprehensive strategy to flush out the dark underside of the
Customs Department to ensure the country’ gains the optimum
through the import tax and other levies. There are many areas
that need a overhaul. For instance our Customs Department should
be better equipped to detect contraband that enters the country
which also has an impact on the economy. The Airport Customs
which plays a greater role in this respect should be revamped
and upgraded to meet the new challenges.
True, we often read of the detection of unauthorized
currencies and the seizure of gold and other illegal items. But
these represent only the tip of the iceberg. For, today there
are smuggling rings linked to international networks who use our
Airport as a transit point in the drugs and human smuggling
rackets. With the construction of Hambantota Port and the
Airport in the South, our Customs would naturally expand to
handle the extra volume of inbound goods and it would be prudent
to prepare for this with new planning and strategies to obtain
the maximum benefits to the country.