BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
THERE is an increase in Customs fraud cases, signalling an urgent need to impose stern penalties and custodial sentences on perpetrators, Customs commissioner Gary Juffa said.
Mr Juffa said yesterday the concern was that if measures were lenient, perpetrators would continue to ply their illegal trade and Papua New Guinea would lose millions of kina every year.
He said Customs would consider amending legislation to impose heavier fines and custodial sentences so that true punishment could be meted to repeated offenders.
“Otherwise, it is merely a cost factor whereby offenders may be willing to budget funds and take calculated risks in committing breaches of the Customs Act for illegal profit,” he said.
Mr Juffa was concerned that at this time when PNG was expecting an economic boom, there was a need for Customs to step up its efforts to detect and prevent fraud.
“These people are not stealing from Customs or avoiding duties that belong to Customs, but are stealing from the people of PNG and they cannot be allowed to do that,” he said.
Mr Juffa cited recent examples where a Customs officer, supported by the policy legal affairs, in successfully investigating and prosecuting a bribery case that saw the conviction of one person in Lae.
He said the person was convicted by the Lae District Court, on Nov 18 for attempting to bribe a Customs officer with K300 to stop the inspection of a container belonging to Shung Long Investment Limited.
Mr Juffa also commended the work of the Customs intelligence unit and transnational crimes unit who seized three vehicles, over the past month, from persons who had fraudulently smuggled used cars into PNG.
The vehicles were seized at various locations in Port Moresby after investigations indicated the fraudulent removal of the vehicles from Port Moresby wharves.
“The Customs investigations unit is vigorously pursuing these cases with a view to prosecuting offenders which include individuals in the shipping industry, freight forwarders and Customs agents,” Mr Juffa said.
In another case, Customs internal affairs officers charged a Customs operations officer with misappropriation.
The officer had arranged for the unlawful movement of a used car from the Port Moresby wharf.
The matter was uncovered and the vehicle impounded until all duties were recovered.
Mr Juffa applauded his officers and stakeholders for their hard work and said these cases set the precedent for Customs to be a better and more efficient agency when it becomes a separate entity next year.