Move by Customs to release harmful adulterated palm oil challenged in the Appeal Court

A public interest litigation activist has challenged in the Court of Appeal the move by an Additional Director General of Customs to allegedly permit a leading businessman to import adulterated palm oil with a false trade description.

As a result, the big-time businessman had imported and released thousands of tons of palm oil, which is absolutely prohibited by the Food Act under false classification, defrauding over Rs. 755 million of tax revenue, the petition filed by the activist, Nagananda Kodituwakku, an attorney-at-law, said.

Now this anti-social action is challenged in the Court of Appeal (CA/201/2016) by the Public Interest Litigation Activist Nagananda Kodituwakku and the Governments Analyst reports

Documents filed in Court by the petitioner claimed that the Customs officer has surreptitiously concealed adverse reports by the Government Analyst, which confirmed that the samples examined contained 23% fatty acid. The officer has done so to facilitate the importer with a wrong classification of the commodity given to evade payment of the fiscal levies.

Further analysis of the samples by scientists also filed in Court, also confirmed that in crude palm oil fatty acid content shall not exceed 5% and in refined palm oil, it should not exceed 0.1%, the petition said.

The Government Analyst reports states that ‘… any vegetable oil which contains high amount of free fatty acid (as the case of this particular product) is highly liable to oxidation and could generate various oxidized products that could harm human health. For instance, end-products of lipid oxidation could be mutagenic and carcinogenic and that the lipid oxidation has a role in the pathogenesis of several pathogenesis such as neurodegenerative, inflammatory, infectious, gastric and nutritional diseases in humans.

"Therefore, the particular product that has been claimed by the importer as ‘Crude Palm Fatty Acid’ is not suitable for human consumption…", the reports stated.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board has also confirmed that there is no such product called Crude Palm Fatty Acid in the palm oil industry and that their investigation conducted into the matter had revealed what the importer claims Crude Palm Fatty Acid is palm oil blend with fatty acid, the process surreptitiously done to evade payment of fiscal levy at a higher rate, the petitioner asserted.

Further to the Customs investigation now being conducted into this matter, 24 containers of adulterated palm oil has been seized. Now the importer, relying on the falsified report earlier given to his favor by the Additional Director General, makes every attempt to have these detained shipments released from the custody of the Customs, he said.

Therefore, the rights activists, furnishing this information, requested Court to make an Order compelling the Director General of Customs to confiscate all 24 containers of adulterated palm oil not good for human consumption and to destroy them in public as a deterrent to other such importers, who import similar substandard food items absolutely disregarding the health and safety concerns.

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