By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK
A MAJOR government operation led by the Immigration Department has uncovered illegal activities conducted by some foreign-owned businesses in Port Moresby.
A team comprising officers from the PNG Customs, Labour Department, Investments Promotion Authority, National Capital District Commission, Bank of PNG and police inspected some businesses and questioned foreign workers yesterday.
The team confiscated two vehicles allegedly smuggled into the country in a container.
The officers also questioned 30 foreign workers for allegedly breaching their visa conditions and work permits.
Deputy Chief Immigration Officer, compliance and border division Dino Mas, who invited The National to accompany the officers yesterday, said each government agency was to check to see if the foreign-owned businesses and workers were complying with PNG laws.
During a debriefing session after yesterday’s inspection, officers exchanged information and discussed what they had discovered.
PNG Customs Officers said they discovered two brand new vehicles, yet to be introduced to the country, hidden in a container.
“These model vehicles have not been introduced yet into PNG. Yet they are already here. We checked the payment documents and discovered that the owner paid only K8000 for each vehicle,” an officer said.
“We will check our overseas counterpart where the vehicle came from, how these vehicles were shipped out of their country.
“We also discovered large quality of undeclared cigarettes in a container in the same premises. These cigarettes were brought in without paying custom taxes.”
Bank of PNG officers, who requested anonymity, said some of these foreign companies had been avoiding paying taxes to the Internal Revenue Commission.
“Some of these companies are making up to K2 million profit annually. But they were declaring around K500 in tax return. So they are avoid paying taxes,” one officer said.
“Seeing their business operations from outside, it is very big. But when they provide business reports, they make it a very small operation.”
The officers said there were many smaller companies but linked to only three or four big companies.
“And they transfer all the money to one parent company and from there, they bank it in an overseas account.
“This is money laundering. We discovered large amount of cash in their premises and discovered that they don’t bank their money in our commercial banks.
“We encourage them to bank the money for security reasons.”
Labour officers requesting anonymity said they discovered that some companies were not paying superannuation for local staff. They also do not pay the minimum K3 an hour rate.
“Some of these foreign employees are doing jobs that locals can do like operating cash registers. But on their work permit they are managers.
“We also found out that there are too many managers for one job. Some of them come on dependent or tourist visas. But they end up doing business.”
The Labour officers also discovered that some foreign workers were paid in cash so that their employer would avoid paying tax.
“Their employers were also holding onto their passports and work permits and forcing them to work. They also threaten them that they will not return to their families. This is a form of human trafficking.”
National Capital District Commission officers discovered that the workers were living in unhygienic and unhealthy conditions.
By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK