Growing threat of smuggling, trafficking of illicit items

Containers at Suva's King's Wharf. This week the FRCS will look into the number of duty concessions available and the requirements that has to be fulfilled in order to qualify for these concessions. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

INCREASES in the volume of arriving vessels, aircraft, passengers and cargo has increased the potential threat for smuggling and trafficking of illicit items across borders, says Fiji Revenue and Customs Service CEO Visvanath Das.

Mr Das said they were concerned with the number of fishing vessels that continued to smuggle highly taxed goods such as alcohol and cigarettes as well as currencies into the country.

In a media statement, Mr Das said last year, Revenue and Customs searched 68 fishing vessels berthed at the Suva Harbour after Customs officers had profiled the vessels for a number of reasons and considered that they may be a high border risk or may be breaching legislative requirements.

“Through these 68 rummages, a number of irregularities including undeclared alcohol and cigarettes (which attract high tax rates) were discovered. The teams also found undeclared currencies, environmentally damaging gas which is banned in Fiji and most surprisingly 8 live puppies. In fact, 26 of the 68 searches resulted in an anomaly being detected,” Mr Das said.

“In the 57 rummages that were carried out on fishing vessels from January 2018, 10 anomalies were discovered. These detections included high volumes of undeclared cigarettes and alcohol as well as other dutiable items.

“During one of the rummages in February, Customs officers also recovered more than 105,000 litres of excess fuel, which was undeclared. Total duty collected during this rummage alone was more than $34,000,” Mr Das said.

He said those found guilty of this offence would be liable to a fine of $25,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or both under section 137 of the Customs Act.

The FRCS continues to work with other agencies to make Fiji’s borders safe and Mr Das said this year they signed a Fiji Country Plan with the New Zealand Customs Service to improve border management in Fiji.

Mr Das said the technical assistance NZ Customs provides, would assist to enhance capacity and competency to clamp down risks that posed a threat at Fiji’s borders.

He said recently the Revenue and Customs along with 24 other World Customs Organisation (WCO) Member Countries made a commitment to adopt international standards and to share best practices.

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