Jun 11 12:36 PM - Sri Lanka - Government coffers have lost about Rs. 50million in revenue from the release of two under valued palm oil shipmentsin contravention of the Customs (Amendment) Act No.2 of 2003.
Certain Customs officials had released two consignments comprising 6,000MTs of palm oil at an under valued price of US$ 290 a metric ton when theactual price was US $ 405.
All Ceylon Customs Services Union Secretary J.A.Gunathilake had written toFinance Minister Sarath Amunugama urging him to probe into this fraud.
The Union suspects that an advance of Rs. 17.05 million has already beentaken by the Customs officials involved in the fraud, out of a totalagreed bribe of Rs. 25 million.
Even though the fraud was evidently clear, Customs officials had releasedthe goods on a mere company guarantee.
According to Section 51 A Clause 7 of the Customs (Amendment) Act 'theDirector General may, except in case where fraud is suspected, allow theclearance of the goods upon furnishing security for the payment of thecustoms duties and other levies for which the goods may be liable'.
The decision to release the two shipments on company guarantees was takenafter Director General Customs (DGC) Sarath Jayathilake had consultedDirector Valuation M. H. R. Tissera, Deputy Director (Post Clearance andAudit) and Superintendent of Post Clearance and Audit (PAC), according toa letter written by Superintendent of PCA.
Director Valuation M. H. R. Tissera who had first held up the twoconsignments suspecting under valuation, authorised the Superintendent andDeputy Director PAC to release the consignments on a company guaranteemeasuring the weight.
DGC Sarath Jayathilake replying to Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama hadjustified the release of the consignment stating: "In order to rejectdeclared values we have to prove the declared values are not acceptableunder the law. At the time of importation of these consignments thisdepartment did not have any evidence to reject the declared values".
But the DGC has forgotten that many similar consignments had been importedduring this period at a cost of 400 US Dollars a metric ton. When askedwhy the two shipments were released DGC Jayathilake said "at the timeCustoms had only a price list but not actual prices paid or payable".
Jayathilake said that there were inadequate facts at that time and nowinformation is available. Two officials have gone to Malaysia to collectinformation and the inquiry will be concluded soon, he added.