By HELEN TARAWA
THE high import duties on certain commodities such as cigarettes and alcohol are leading to illegal trading and smuggling of goods across the borders, according to the PNG Customs Services.
Chief Commissioner Ray Paul, in response to concerns about the increase in counterfeit products brought into the country, said there had been incidents of illegal imports smuggled across the borders.
He said PNG Customs had improved most of its business processes and systems through a mixture of policy and practical interventions.
“It is important to understand that as we evolved, the criminal world too is evolving,” he said.
“From our observation, imports of illicit trading into PNG no longer come in full container loads but in loose shipments.
“And there is the possibility of the local manufacturing of illicit items in PNG as well.”
Paul urged locals employed by these firms to come forward and report the illegal activities to Customs or other law enforcement agencies.
“While we appreciate the technological tools that are available at our disposal to use, we still have an open border porous to illicit trade,” he said.
In the case of the factory-made bilum found in the local markets, and the “imported” beer which looked like the local product, Paul said there could be more similar cases.
The Customs Services is working with the Investment Promotion Authority, which has the enabling legislation, to destroy about 8000 “fake” bilum confiscated in Kimbe in October, valued at about K180,000.
On the “imported” beer, Paul blamed the local brewer for failing to respond to Customs when it was advised earlier this year to have its trademark brand enforced at the borders.
“After the detection was made, it has now come forward and registered with PNGCS,” he said.
“Alerts have been sent out this week to the three main ports for monitoring and enforcement purpose.
“It must be highlighted that the face of illicit trade has different shapes. It is a large network that involves all sectors of the community including bureaucrats.
“They are a bunch of seasonal opportunists who continue to shift and change.
“These groups are very nervous and sensitive to enforcement and agencies presence as well.”
Paul said the effective use of these technology and skill buffered by stringent policy interventions had greatly improved the detection of illicit imports.
“We are conscious of the ever changing illicit trends and have and will continue to put in place appropriate strategies to counter illicit traders.”
Paul said the Australian tax office was helping to improve the current exercise regime.
“Keeping our borders safe from illicit trade needs a holistic approach from corporate, government and citizens (to report any illegal trading),” he said.
“If you do not report it on time, you can endanger your health or your family’s health.”
By HELEN TARAWA