The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority is currently conducting an investigation into two shipping companies and their agents who colluded to manipulate trade documents, thereby evading the full payment of duties and taxes to the government.
Alhaji Seidu Iddrisu Iddisah, the Commissioner of the Customs Division, revealed this during an interview. He disclosed that the investigation centres on the alteration of goods descriptions in order to expedite clearance and avoid the rightful tax obligations.
The Customs Division became aware of these irregularities based on intelligence reports concerning these two companies and importers who were noted for falsifying their bills of lading during the goods clearance process at the Tema Port.
Upon intercepting and physically examining the targeted goods, it was discovered that the descriptions on the Bill of Entry (BOE) did not match the actual contents found in the containers. T
he goods were originally described as “footwear, bags, belts, underwear, galvanized pipes,” but were declared as “Knapsack Sprayer” on the BOE.
In response to these findings, the Customs Division initiated an audit through the Internal Audit and Post Clearance Audit (PCA) departments.
The audit uncovered 23 Bills of Entry (BOEs), with 22 linked to one shipping line, that had been tampered with. The importers had engaged in misdescription, misclassification, and undervaluation of goods to pay lower customs duties and taxes.
One BOE alone revealed a tax evasion of 10.15 million cedis. The audit also revealed that some agents submitted customs declarations with inaccurate details to reduce tax liabilities while providing cloned customs declarations containing the actual goods' descriptions and value, thereby collecting the full amount payable from the importer.
Alhaji Iddisah confirmed that during the investigation, the two companies admitted their officers had falsified the goods' descriptions received from the ship. Further investigations are ongoing to determine the extent of the importers' involvement.
Management has decided to expand the investigation to cover the past six years to identify other companies engaged in similar fraudulent practices.
While not ruling out the possibility of customs officers' involvement, Alhaji Iddisah noted that such collusion has yet to be confirmed, and the initial intelligence came from customs officers themselves.
Demand notices have been issued to recover the lost taxes and penalties, and the investigation may lead to prosecution.
To enhance monitoring, the Customs Division plans to shift its focus from the ports to headquarters for more effective supervision.
Additionally, the green channel, which facilitates speedy clearance, will now include a holding area for proper screening and potential re-examination of containers to prevent abuse of the system.