The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority has uncovered activities of two shipping companies and clearing agents involved in an alleged falsification of information on trade documents to evade payment of taxes.
The clearing agents are said to have connived with the shipping lines to falsify information on their manifests and bills of lading, including incorrect description of goods to obtain priority clearance to evade payment of taxes to the state.
An audit conducted during preliminary investigations into the case of one of the bills of entry had uncovered a tax evasion of GH¢10.15 million.
Demand notices have been issued to retrieve all the taxes lost to the state, including penalties and possible prosecution of the perpetrators.
The names of the shipping companies and agents have not been given because investigations are ongoing.
The Commissioner of the Customs, Seidu Iddrisu Iddisah, who confirmed this in an interview, said the activities of the two shipping lines and importers were discovered through intelligence.
He said it was realised that the bills of lading submitted for clearance of the goods at the Tema Port had some false information.
And upon physical examination, it was found out that the descriptions on the bill of entry (BOE) was different from the goods found in the container.
He said although the container contained footwear, bags, belts, underwear, galvanised pipes, among others, it was labelled as containing knapsack sprayers.
Following the discovery, Alhaji Iddisah said the Internal and Post Clearance Audit (PCA) department of the division were tasked to conduct audit on the agents and importers behind the suspected illegal act in accordance with sections seven and nine of the Customs Act 2015 (Act 891), and the World Customs Organisation Revised Kyoto Convention.
In all, 23 BOEs were examined of which 22 belonged to one shipping line with entries undervalued for the purposes of paying lower custom duties and taxes.
It also showed that some clearing agents processed customs declarations with inaccurate particulars with the aim of paying lower duties and taxes, while the clearing agents also provided cloned declarations containing actual descriptions of the goods, value and duty rates and collected the amount payable from the importer.
It was further revealed that the bills of lading from the shipping lines and invoices declared to Customs were falsified by the local shipping line.
Alhaji Iddisah said during investigations, the companies admitted that their officers had falsified the actual description of the goods.
He said management had decided to expand investigations into the past six years to find out whether other companies had also engaged in the illegal activities at the port.
The commissioner said investigations were ongoing to find out the level of involvement of the importers as well.
On improvement of monitoring, Alhaji Iddisah said his outfit had moved the monitoring activities from the ports to the headquarters to ensure effective supervision.
Other measures include the creation of a holding area where goods cleared would properly be screened and re-examined if necessary, and the facilitation of speedy clearance via the green channel system.