The National, Thursday, June 9th 2011
THE Papua New Guinea Customs Services has impounded a barge and pontoon laden with heavy machinery, vehicles and fuel destined for logging ponds in New Ireland.
Customs Commissioner Gary Juffa yesterday said he made the decision to impound the barge after receiving reports from the Assistant Commissioner Islands region Lydia Wartovo of a ship search conducted on May 28 by Customs, police and fisheries officers, which revealed substantial discrepancies in the importation of the shipment.
In a statement, Customs alleged that substantial portions of the shipment had not been declared.
The watchdog alleged that significant revenue would have been evaded through smuggling and customs fraud had it not been detected.
The shipment included heavy equipment and machinery, vehicles and fuel.
Customs alleged a substantial portion of the fuel had not been declared.
The tugboat and barge, the mv Kismet 18 and mv Kismet 19 and its shipments are now subject to Customs investigations and have been detained pending the investigations.
The owners of the goods had been asked to cooperate with Customs during the investigations into the alleged breaches of the Customs Act.
Customs estimates the value of duty evaded to be in the vicinity of several hundreds of thousands of kina.
Juffa said goods that had been smuggled into the country “are immediately forfeited to the State under Customs laws and subject to seizure and may be auctioned by Customs with importers imposed heavy penalties, prosecuted and fined”.
He said another barge and tugboat, Muragawa 2 and Muragawa 5, with a similar shipment of machinery and goods, intercepted in Madang on April 27 and seized by Customs.
They have been commandeered to Lae by Customs for a thorough inspection and valuation by Northern region Customs officers.
The tugboat and barge and their contents have been seized by Customs.
The shipment is owned by timber company Growood Ltd.
Juffa confirmed these operations and expressed concern at the growing instances of smuggling taking place around the country.
“Customs limited resources are fully stretched protecting the interests of PNG,” he said.
“Constant reports are being received by Customs of instances of smuggling and other such transnational crimes throughout PNG.
“While Customs efforts to engage with other agencies, such as police, PNG Defence Force and fisheries are able to address border incursions to some degree, there is a need to ensure appropriate funding and resource capabilities,” he said.
Juffa said intelligence indicated that “these events will continue and even escalate as PNG’s economy grows and becomes attractive to transnational criminals”.
“There is smuggling of high value commercial products across our land and sea border with Indonesia and Australia into and out of PNG.
“All Papua New Guineans must be vigilant in guarding their country from such illegal exploitation,” he said.
Juffa commended the Customs Islands region and officers from the RPNGC and National Fisheries Authority for their continued help in maintaining border vigilance.