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Tuesday, 13 July 2010






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Government Gazette

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 result.

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 public.

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 Christmas hampers.

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.

Twisting the law to serve criminal ends

Lankan sleuth’s studies of the Italian Mafia :

Those who have seen the award winning movies Godfather I and Godfather II will have a fair idea of the vengeful and despicable nature of the Italian Mafia - also known as the Sicilian Mafia. In the 1986 they were at the peak of their power when Sri Lanka’s Ramachandra Sunderalingam joined the Interpol - the France-based International Criminal Police Organization. Sunderalingam, an internationally-recognized narcotic drugs expert was senior DIG (Crimes), Colombo before retirement and was one of those who foresaw 30 years ago the rise of the North’s separatist insurgency.

Full Story

On obligatory amnesia and unforgettable images

My friend Thusha has kindly sent me a fascinating document by Eduardo Galeano. It is called ‘The Right to Rave’, a manifesto and a wish list at the same time. The list was prefaced. ‘In 1948 and again in 1976, the United Nations proclaimed long lists of human rights, but the immense majority of humanity enjoys only the rights to see, hear and remain silent. Suppose we start by exercising the never-proclaimed right to dream? Suppose we rave a bit? Let’s set our sights beyond the abominations of today to divine another possible world.’

Full Story

Promotion of discipline, equity and social justice

The two themes that seemed to reverberate were those of submission to the International Monetary Fund and carelessness in dealing with the International Community. There were charges of inconsistency this morning from the Brains Trust of the Opposition, Kabir Hashim, who failed singularly to grasp that this budget is based on three very simple principles. They are fiscal responsibility, social justice and national unity and security. The last of these had for obvious reasons had to predominate in the past few years, and it is satisfying that now the Opposition too at least pays lip service to this principle.

Full Story



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