Corrupt importers fined Rs. 78 mn
Customs Chief Sarath Jayatilleke yesterday revealed that several recent attempts to under invoice imports had been exposed leading to businessmen being fined Rs. 78 million.
He accused a section of the business community of trying to exploit existing mechanism at the Colombo port to bring in larger consignments than declared. Addressing the press at the Grand Orient Hotel on Thursday (July 16), he said that the Customs would be forced to step up checks, thereby causing delays in the entire process.
He said that the Customs simplified the process some time ago following a meeting a group of major importers had with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. But traders quickly took advantage of the newly introduced system to smuggle in a range of items. He identified importers of potatoes, onions and chillies as some of those involved in the racket.
He said that nothing could be as bad as making an attempt to smuggle in heroin in plastic shells resembling potatoes.
He said that the government had invested heavily on new technology to enhance efficiency, thereby countering attempts to evade taxes. Recently the Customs had spent USD 45,000 on the first stage of this project and the planned second stage would definitely cost more.
He said that the Customs had also helped the war effort by thwarting many attempts to smuggle in contraband. He said that the Customs and the police, too, had been involved in their (Customs) inquiries.
Excise chief Wasantha Hapuarachchi acknowledged that their efforts to increase tax revenue wouldn’t be an easy task due to government’s overall crackdown on the liquor industry. He estimated a 10 per cent drop in the production in the first half of this year. He said that enhanced tax revenue wouldn’t be a reality due to government policy.