The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) in Kilimanjaro Region is now using a mobile phone application to confirm the genuineness of Electronic Tax Stamps (ETS) on spirits that are sold in some bars.
The application provides information on whether the ETS on the drink product was genuine or fake.
This follows a recent request by residents of Kilimanjaro and Arusha, asking the taxman to work with other state agencies to investigate the presence of fake tax stamps in the market.
The TRA regional manager for Kilimanjaro, Mr Gabriel Mwangosi, said yesterday the fake stamps will soon become a thing of the past because the ‘special devices’ have the capacity to verify the fake and genuine ones. “Some traders are buying these stamps from the streets without knowing if they are genuine or not,” he said.
Adding: “We have found some of them buying ETS stamps, which are not recognised by the TRA system. This is a major reason for us to come up with a tool that can help curb fakes,” he noted.
The taxman is friendly with traders because the two depend on each other, cautioning that those using the fake stamps will face the law.
“We provide them (traders) with education to ensure that they fulfil their responsibilities of paying appropriate taxes and on time in order to avoid unnecessary penalties,” said Mr Mwangosi.
He stressed the ETS are mandatory for all traders, cautioning them to refrain from cheating.
“With these verifying devices, I can assure you (traders) and the resi-dents that no one will use fake stamps,” he noted.
Recently, TRA in Kilimanjaro Region reported to have arrested a man, Mr Kimario, in a deliberate effort to dismantle the network of individuals who engage in the distribution of fake ETS.
“He was arrested at his home. He would pocket Sh10,000 on every 100 fake stamps he sold to manufacturers. At times, he would issue a Sh2,000 discount and sell at Sh8,000. This is sabotage of our economy and revenue collec-tion efforts,” said Mr Mwangosi last Wednesday.
The government announced plans to adopt the ETS system in June 2018 and the first phase was conducted on January 15, 2019 whereby stamps were installed on 19 companies that produce alcohol, wine and spirits.
ETS seeks to boost transparency in the collection of excise duty, value-added tax (Vat) and corporate tax from manufacturers.
The ETS system enables the government to use modern technology to obtain production data on a timely basis (real time) from manufacturers.
New investment in track and trace systems, rising excise taxes and wider commercial applications will drive tax stamp growth in the next five years, according to a new report published by Reconnaissance International.
The third edition of the ‘Tax Stamps & Traceability: A Market Analysis and Technical Update’ identifies cannabis and vaping products as new markets for tax stamps to tap into, at a time when the continued trade in illicit tobacco and alcohol sees revenue agencies using the devices as effective weapons in the fight against counterfeiters and criminals.
The report also points to the fact that by 2023, tobacco products in at least 60 countries will need to have track and trace systems in place to comply with the WHO FCTC Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products. This could open up additional tax stamp markets and more commercial opportunity for an established product.
More than a 120 billion tax stamps are used annually, the report says, to secure tobacco and liquor excise revenues, or as part of product authentication and secure tax and trace programmes. However, it adds that while the number of countries adopting tax stamps continues to rise, the market for cigarettes and spirits is falling in the face of declining global tobacco consumption and a marginal increase in the sale of spirits.
Coming against the backdrop of WHO’s framework designed to curb the illicit trade in tobacco products, the report is the only one of its kind to cover the global alcohol and tobacco tax stamp market, and considers both the current and future tax stamp and traceability environment in specific countries and regions.
Cannabis and fuel marking among other products are identified as emerging markets for tax stamps and tax marks, where they can be used effectively to protect against the threat of counterfeiting and secure taxes lost to criminals and other nefarious activity.
The question of why paper-based tax stamps, as opposed to digital alternatives, continue to provide the best protection against acts of non-compliance and illicit trade is considered as part of a section looking at the current landscape, the evolution of tax stamp programmes and what’s compelling some countries to extend take-up while others will not consider using them.
Further sections examine the practical steps involved in creating tax stamp and traceability programmes and feature a quantitative analysis of current and future volumes based on consumption data obtained from GlobalData. Information on the different types of tax stamps and systems being deployed across the globe with an assessment of their impact and effectiveness, are also included.
‘Tax Stamps & Traceability: A Market Analysis and Technical Update’ looks to the future with insight and opinion on questions around the viability of paper-based tax stamps and the impact of the WHO FCTC Protocol on tobacco track and trace systems which use tax stamps. It also asks what the common characteristics of these systems are that successfully increase tax revenues and reduce illicit trade.
Nicola Sudan of Reconnaissance International is the report’s editor. She said: “This is an important strategic report, offering insight, analysis and to those with a vested interest in tax stamps, the knowledge needed to progress with their own plans in this burgeoning sector.
“Tax stamps offer a cost-effective way to secure excise revenue, while the authentication benefits provided cannot be overstated. It is why they will continue to be highly regarded and used by revenue authorities around the world well into the future.
“So whether your country, state or jurisdiction currently uses a tax stamp scheme, or is considering investing in such a scheme, it would be beneficial to find out what a modern programme can deliver and why now is the right time to introduce them or expand your current scheme. This report will aid in making the right decisions and choices.”
In a statement, the IMO said the ‘Single Window for Facilitation of Trade (SWiFT) Project’ will develop a system in a pilot port to allow electronic submission, through one single portal, of all information required by various government agencies when a ship calls at a port.
The SWiFT project will be implemented by IMO in partnership with Singapore, the body said.
Regulations in IMO’s Facilitation Convention require electronic exchange of data, to ensure the efficient clearance of ships and the single window concept is recommended, to avoid duplication of effort.
Individual data elements should only be submitted once, electronically through a single point of entry, to the relevant regulatory agencies and other parties.
According to the IMO, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the value of digitalisation and electronic exchange of required data is speedier, more reliable, efficient and COVID-secure than manual processes.
Under the pilot project, the selected country will be advised on the necessary legal, policy and institutional requirements for the MSW system. The port will then be provided with functional MSW software, hardware and/or IT services, configured to the country’s needs.
The pilot will be supported by Singapore via in-kind contributions and by IMO via the Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP).
Kitack Lim, IMO’s Secretary-General, said, “Increased digitalisation supports greater efficiency which benefits the ship, the port and wider supply chain.
“We want to support countries in implementing the FAL Convention requirements for electronic data exchange, by supporting a pilot project which will show the way and result in know-how which can then be shared with others.”
Following the initial pilot and subject to funding availability, the aim is to replicate the pilot project in other IMO Member States in need of similar technical assistance, the IMO claimed.
Julian Abril, Head of IMO’s Facilitation Section, “Following implementation in the pilot port, the IMO-Singapore project endeavours to springboard countries in their digitalisation journey and unlock the full potential of their maritime sectors.
“It is only when most, if not all, ports undergo digital transformation, that the full benefits of digitalization can be realized by the maritime community.
“With support from IMO’s Department of Partnership and Projects, we envisage an increasing number of discussions with external partners and resource mobilization efforts to support an ambitious scaling-up plan for this pilot initiative.”
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in partnership with West Blue Consulting, United Parcel Services (UPS), Trade Law Center (TRALAC) have officially launched the eTradeHubs portal, http://www.etradehubs.com.
The eTradeHubs portal is a one-stop for Trade Tools, Information & Collaboration which aims to reduce the time and cost of doing business by supporting businesses at all levels of maturity – the micro enterprise to the multinational.
The portal which was virtually launched last week Thursday has features such as a multi country Tariff and Trade Information Tool and a Duty Calculator.
A first-time trader or existing trader wishing to import raw materials or export finished goods, can search on the portal.
The Duty Calculator further provides an estimate of the customs duty, tax and levies of the destination region or country to aid in financial and logistical planning.
eTradeHubs also provides a Trade Management Tool. Equipped with accurate trade information, the trader can proceed to transact, by generating trade compliant documentation, manage compliance, workflow and costs – all on the same platform, without the need to visit multiple regulatory agencies, entities, websites and physical offices as done previously.
The portal currently provides country data on Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and the ECOWAS sub region, with more countries and sub regions to be introduced in support of the Digitise 5 million African SMES initiative.
CC, UPS, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) announced a partnership to support women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.
The partners will offer capacity building programmes and tools, including co-developed trade and information portals called “e-Trade Hubs,” advocate for enabling public policy, and create electronic guidelines to help women entrepreneurs scale-up and digitise their businesses.
The Secretary General of ICC, Mr John W.H. Denton AO in his remarks said the economic, social, and health consequences associated with the COVID-19 pandemic had unequally impacted the lives and livelihoods of women business owners everywhere.
“We are extremely proud to partner with UPS, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting to level the playing field in Africa and provide women entrepreneurs with the required resources to digitise their businesses. Women-led businesses are the backbone of their local economies – we can’t afford to leave them behind,” he added,
The CEO and Founder of West Blue Consulting, noted that “The adoption of solutions by women in business and trade, will ensure benefits such as an increased ability for women to work from home whilst raising families; improved global market access, employment opportunities and a shift of women from the informal sector to the formal.
“The portal will provide a 24/7 collaborative space where women traders and entrepreneurs in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and of course their male peers can connect and access timely and up to date information, skills and operational tools, offered by various providers”, she added.
Ms Mintah expressed delight to partner with ICC, UPS and TRALAC to provide the needed skills training, trade information and tools via the eTradeHubs portal http://www.etradehubs.com.
President of UPS, Ms Penny Naas, the International Public Affairs & Sustainability said “Research shows that only 1 out of 5 businesses that exports is led by a woman. At UPS, we’re moving our world forward by helping women-run businesses maximize their participation in trade through public-private partnerships that provide policy recommendations and support with knowledge sharing and building skills”.
Executive Director of Tralac, Ms Trudi Hartzenberg, said the adoption of digital trade solutions for the AfCFTA would address many border management challenges that disproportionately impact women traders.
The UK government has promised that a plan to create eight freeports with low-tax zones will boost the post-Brexit economy, but has also sparked fears that they could allow flows of illicit trade into the country.
The designated free-trade zones (FTZs) – due to be created at Felixstowe/Harwich, Liverpool, Hull, Southampton, London Gateway, Plymouth, Teesside and East Midlands airport – will attract investment and job creation in some hard-hit areas of the country, say backers of the proposal, headed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Goods can be landed, stored, handled, manufactured or reconfigured and re-exported at freeports without being subjected to customs tariffs. In addition, companies operating inside the sites will be offered temporary tax breaks, mostly lasting five years.
In the other camp are those who point to the experience with FTZs in other parts of the world in facilitating the trade in things like counterfeit goods and drug trafficking.
In 2018, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and the EU Intellectual Property Office found that FTZs were linked to a 5.9 per cent rise in the value of counterfeit goods exported from hosting countries.
“These results confirm the anecdotal evidence pointing to the misuse of FTZs to conduct illicit trade, and they should be a prompt for future actions,” it concluded.
Since then, the EU has started to pay more attention to the activities of the 82 FTZs within its borders post-Brexit, launching new rules to crack down on what the European Commission says is a “high incidence of corruption, tax evasion, [and] criminal activity.”
The UK government reckons it can move ahead with its freeport plan without the risk of stimulating illicit trade, based in part on the findings of a report published last year by independent research body the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI).
That study acknowledges the evidence of criminal activity taking place at freeports around the world, saying it most commonly takes the form of counterfeit goods, drug trafficking, smuggling of untaxed goods or trade-based money laundering.
Those dangers may be mitigated, it says, through careful risk assessment at each geographical location where freeports are established, making sure crime prevention measures are proportional to those risks, and close vetting of businesses wishing to operate in them.
The freeport operators should also be regularly placed under scrutiny to assess their effectiveness in “discharging their security-related responsibilities,” and recommendations laid out by the OECD should also be adhered to.
The latter includes making sure the authorities have access to goods and related documentation, ideally digital, in addition to screening of businesses operating in the FTZ.
In its notice for the tender for freeport operators published last November, the government says operators “must adhere to the OECD code of conduct…and the specific anti-illicit trade and security measures therein,” as well as the UK’s obligations on money laundering, terrorist funding and transparent transfer of funds.
RUSI’s research has shown that a lack of oversight in freeports provides opportunities “to manufacture, assemble, tranship, relabel and repackage illegal goods, including counterfeit medicines, electronics and fashion items.”
It also notes that ‘leakage’ is common, where goods are smuggled from a freeport into a host economy, thus avoiding relevant checks on health and safety standards, import taxes and VAT.
At least seven freeports operated in the UK between 1984 and 2012, when the government stopped renewing freeport licenses and switched its attention to “enterprise zones”, which also provide tax breaks in a bid to encourage industrial growth and community regeneration.
RUSI notes that the US does seem to be able to operate FTZs without increasing the risk of illicit trade, and says it is “reassuring that, for some parts of government at least, tackling economic crime remains top of the agenda.
Critics of the UK plan, including the opposition Labour Party, think there are other downsides as well.
One viewpoint is that rather than growing the economy, the freeports will simply move it around the country, benefitting deprived areas but providing no net gain overall.
Some also argue that the net result will be even worse – a reduction in tax contributions from industry to the treasury – with businesses elsewhere undercut by those operating within freeport. Others meanwhile are concerned that the rights of people working within the FTZs will be diluted.
“If the government thinks freeports are a magic bullet that will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, bring billions of additional pounds to the Exchequer and radically transform an area it is mistaken,” according to Professor Catherine Barnard, deputy director of UK in a Changing Europe.
“That is not to say they should not be created but the thought they’re going to transform the wealth and prosperity of this country is simply untrue. It will help the regions that get a freeport – but possibly to the detriment of those that don’t.”
A new WTO publication, launched on 22 February, provides an overview of the purpose and scope of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement), the types of measures it covers and its key principles. Prepared by the WTO Secretariat, this new edition in the “WTO Agreements” series aims at enhancing understanding of the TBT Agreement.
The TBT Agreement entered into force with the establishment of the WTO on 1 January 1995. It aims to ensure that product requirements in regulations and standards — on safety, quality, health, etc. — as well as procedures for assessing product compliance with such requirements (testing, inspection, accreditation, etc.) are not unjustifiably discriminatory and do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. The Agreement also emphasizes the importance of transparency and strongly encourages the use of international standards as a basis for harmonizing regulations across WTO members.
The handbook sets out the key principles of the TBT Agreement and discusses how these have been addressed in recent disputes brought under this Agreement. The publication looks into requirements on transparency, a cornerstone of the TBT Agreement, and describes the mandate, role and work of the TBT Committee. It also considers how TBT‑related matters have been tackled in negotiations at the WTO.
The handbook also contains the full text of the TBT Agreement, as well as a compilation of all decisions and recommendations adopted by the TBT Committee since its creation in 1995.
“Standards and regulations are among the most important types of trade-related measures used around the world. Crafting them carefully, in line with the disciplines of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, can help governments achieve important policy objectives, including safeguarding human health and safety, as well as protecting the environment — and this without unnecessarily disrupting trade. This Handbook is a must-read for anyone interested in these issues,” says Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff in a foreword to the handbook.
The publication contains many substantive updates, changes and additions as compared to previous editions (this is the 3rd edition). It can be downloaded here. Printed copies can be purchased from the WTO’s Online Bookshop.
Other publications in this series cover the Agreement on Agriculture and the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.
The World Customs Organization (WCO) is proud to announce the release of its new online tool, www.wcotradetools.org, which compiles information to support international trade actors in the classification of goods and the determination of the corresponding Customs tariffs and taxes. This new database offers a single point of access to the Harmonized System, preferential Rules of Origin and Valuation, through a completely new, user-centric and ergonomic interface.
In addition to a new interface design and new search engines, this new platform offers the following key features:
Ability to cross-reference information by using a comparison tool in the Harmonized System (HS) and Rules of Origin
A direct overview of the most recent HS updates, highlighting the changes introduced
A system for tracking the evolution of the HS codes across editions, using a “History” tool
A facility for searching through the Product Specific Rules in more than 200 Free Trade Agreements, and access to the corresponding HS entry.
The new platform will also promote cooperation among the different teams within Customs administrations, as well as with Customs brokers and companies, through various features such as the possibility to tag information, write comments and share folders. It offers the possibility of further enhancing use of the platform; users can search through the extensive databases, as well as organizing and storing the content according to their personal preferences.
This new tool includes the 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017 editions of the HS, around 200 Free Trade Agreements with their preferential Rules of Origin/product specific recommendations, and the set list of Valuation texts, including those of the Technical Committee on Customs Valuation.
In addition to this new professional database, the WCO is also proud to announce the release of its new online bookshop, www.wcoomdpublications.org, where users can navigate through the range of WCO publications, purchase them, and subscribe to the Organization’s online services, including WCO Trade Tools. The website has benefited from a complete revamp, to facilitate users’ access to the publications and enhance their navigation experience.
Customs activities for this year are underpinned by the World Customs Organization’s (WCO) 2021 theme “Customs bolstering recovery, resilience and renewal for sustainable global supply chain”. The colossal task that lies ahead as nations look to reconstruct their global supply chain is one of the reasons that the WCO has advocated Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) programmes as a tool to promote reconstruction.
SARS, in collaboration with the Border Management Agency (BMA), is leading the process of creating a Single Government AEO (SGAEO) programme to ensure improved trade facilitation and supply chain security in South Africa, the Southern African region, the African continent and globally. The World Bank (WB) and WCO have agreed to assist SARS to create a SGAEO programme, through the WB Trade Facilitation Programme.
The agreement to conceptualise a SGAEO for South Africa culminated in agreement that SARS and the BMA would jointly host a workshop with all agencies involved in managing trade at the border. The WB and WCO have agreed to participate in the workshop on 2 March 2021. The workshop is intended to contextualise and set the scene for the creation of a SGAEO programme in South Africa and to allow for comparison of the various OGA risk management programmes for cross border trade with the SARS AEO programme.
International drivers for Single Government AEO programmes include the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement and the WCO’s SAFE Framework of Standards. South Africa’s scoring on the OECD’s Trade Facilitation Indicator is used as input into the World Bank’s (WB) Ease of Trading across Borders in its annual Doing Business Report.
For Customs Administrations, AEO programmes are vital tools for developing trust-based partnerships with economic operators who have high levels of commitment to compliance and supply chain security. Economic operators, on the other hand, are interested in the tangible benefits offered to participants, particularly, mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) with trading partners.
While several countries have adopted different OGA (Other Government Agencies)AEO models, SARS’ preferred model is a Single Government AEO Programme with one certification process and benefits granted by all agencies.
Source: South African Revenue Service, Rae Vivier, 2 March 2021
This edition’s “Dossier” focuses on how Customs can bolster “Recovery, Renewal and Resilience”, the WCO’s theme for 2021, and includes several articles on the digitalization of procedures and the emergence of new digital ecosystems, an article on an impact assessment method using a stakeholder needs analysis, as well as another one on a methodology for using machine learning to identify transactions involving strategic goods.
In the “Panorama” section, China Customs offers some suggestions on how to combat waste trafficking more effectively, Brazil Customs presents its experience of conducting its first Time Release Study, and Oman Customs explains how it managed to accelerate the release of goods by rolling out a Single Window environment and signing service level agreements with regulatory agencies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the danger posed by products infringing quality and safety requirements intended to protect consumers and workers. In the “Focus” section of the magazine, we asked market surveillance authorities and Customs administrations to share their experience of controlling the compliance of imported products. To introduce the topic and give an overview of the different offences observed, we open this section with an article on Operation STOP. This global enforcement operation targeted illicit trade in medical products, especially those generally used to diagnose or treat COVID-19.
Korea Customs Service (KCS), represented by its Commissioner, Mr. Suk-Hwan Roh, and the World Customs Organization (WCO), represented by its Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, completed the signing process for a Memorandum of Understanding on establishing a WCO Regional Dog Training Centre (RDTC) in Incheon, Republic of Korea.
The new RDTC in Incheon is equipped with high-quality facilities, which include indoor and outdoor kennels, training buildings with simulation training zones and veterinary clinic, etc. Its experienced instructors will conduct professional detector dog training programmes for Customs officials responsible for canine-related duties in the region.
The Centre will serve as a hub for the region’s Customs administrations to share best practices and expertise, and will also provide assistance and advice to other administrations through detector dog training and procurement of detector dogs.
“Detector dogs are of paramount importance in Customs duties,” stressed Secretary General Mikuriya. “Thanks to the professional experts, first-rate facilities and specialized and tailor-made training programmes provided by the KCS, I am confident in the future success of the new RDTC,” he added.
Detector dogs are an ideal tool for screening people and goods in a timely manner, as they have one of the most acute senses of smell in the animal kingdom. This enables them to rapidly detect the presence of prohibited or regulated goods (including drugs, explosives, currency, CITES items, etc.), with minimal disruption to the movement of people and goods. Detector dogs are one of the most important operational resources for identifying and combating Customs fraud worldwide.
With a view to maintaining high standards and building a global network for canine enforcement, to date the WCO has certified 16 WCO RDTCs established in different regions. The goal of these RDTCs is to provide professional canine-related training and capacity building activities for Customs administrations in each of the respective regions and to facilitate cooperation between them.
Germany and Belgium have seized 23 tonnes of cocaine in the biggest-ever haul of the drug in Europe, German customs said Wednesday.
“The enormous amount of cocaine would have brought in several billion euros (dollars) in street sales,” the customs office said in a statement.
German officers had discovered 16 tonnes of cocaine hidden in containers from Paraguay at the port of Hamburg on Feb. 12.
Joint investigations into the stash with Dutch officers led authorities to swoop on another 7.2 tonnes in cocaine at the port of Antwerp in Belgium, German customs said.
A 28-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday in the Netherlands in connection with both the German and Dutch hauls totaling 23 tonnes, it added.
Customs officers at the busy port in Hamburg had decided to take a closer look at the Paraguayan containers after noticing “clear irregularities” with its contents – tin cans that were meant to be filled with putty.
“Beyond a layer of genuine goods packed just behind the container door, numerous tin cans were in fact filled with other goods,” said customs.
Investigators ordered the containers unloaded, and found the cocaine stash in over 1,700 tin cans.
“This is the largest amount of cocaine ever seized in Europe and one of the largest single seizures worldwide,” German customs said, referring to the Hamburg haul.
In all, 102 tonnes of cocaine headed for the European continent were intercepted last year by an international law enforcement project co-implemented by the United Nations.
The federal government has banned all agencies from conducting individual cargo inspection at the ports, noting that such inspections must be done jointly.
The Executive Secretary, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello disclosed this on Wednesday during a courtesy call to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Chairman, Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd).
He said the regime of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) recently approved has commenced with no provision for individual inspections by agencies, directing inspection agencies to assemble do joint inspection by 9 am.
“What causes delay is the lack of harmonisation of operating procedures of many agencies at the port. We want all agencies to be on the same page so the process is efficient. The manual says everyone should assemble at the port by 8:30 am and by 9:00 am, everyone does joint inspection. This will cut out delays, ensure efficiency, and promote ease of doing business” Mr. Bello said.
With this measure in place, the ports digitisation process must reach 90 per cent by this first quarter just as the government targets 24 hours operations at the ports.
“Some terminal operators have 98 per cent and others are coming up. Our target is that by the end of the first quarter, we should achieve 90 per cent digitalisation so you don’t need to go to the port to transact business,” he stated.
“We are also aiming to have 24 hours operations at the seaports just like the airports. We are doing it in conjunction with our sister agencies at the ports” he further stated.
The NDLEA Chairman, Brig. Gen. Marwa (rtd) pledged his support to the new reform but he added that the NDLEA will not compromise its duties in stopping illicit drugs from entering the country to destroy citizens.
Herewith a 2020 update of the ICC BASCAP report assessing the environment and highlighting trends in counterfeiting and other forms of illicit trade facilitated within free trade zones.
Free Trade Zones (FTZs) provide significant opportunities for legitimate business and play a critical role in global trade as well as economic growth for the host nation. However, our updated research has continued to confirm that insufficient oversight remains a major enabler of illicit activities. Since the publication of our previous 2013 report, there have not been vast improvements in limiting criminal activities within FTZs. In fact, the Covid-19 pandemic has increased vulnerability for abuses by criminal actors who take advantage of supply chain shortages and increased demands as well as relaxed oversight often because of such things as quarantines that have softened Customs control.
Counterfeiters use transit or transhipment of goods, through multiple, geographically diverse FTZs for no other purpose than to disguise the illicit nature of the products. Once introduced into an FTZ, counterfeit goods may undergo a series of economic operations, including assembly, manufacturing, processing, warehousing, re-packaging, and re-labelling. Once completed, the goods can be imported directly to the national territory of the hosting state or re-exported to another country for distribution or to another FTZ, where the process is repeated.
Our 2020 report promotes a set of specific policy and legislative recommendations on how to preserve and expand the benefits of FTZs for legitimate traders and protect the public and honest businesses from predatory practices. These recommendations are based on a review of the international and national legal frameworks governing FTZs, including how they are implemented and enforced.
Suggested recommendations include:
empowering Customs with jurisdiction over day-to-day operations within FTZs
strengthening relationship between Customs and FTZs
clarifying and declaring that FTZs remain under the jurisdiction of the national Customs authority
enhancing data sharing between Customs and the private sector
strengthening national government adherence to international conventions and implementation of international standards
legislatively ensuring that strict penalties are in place, including criminal sanctions where appropriate, against perpetrators of illegal activities in FTZs
that manufacturers and shippers recognize and use the ICC World Chambers Foundation’s International Certificates of Origin (COs) Accreditation Chain which is a program that accredits chambers of commerce issuing COs wishing to guarantee their commitment to the highest level of quality, implementing transparent and accountable issuance and verification procedures. Accredited chambers will receive a distinctive internationally recognized quality classification, reinforcing their integrity and credibility as competent trusted third parties in the issuance of COs.
Additionally, the new document also provides specific recommendations such as drawing on international agreements, lessons learned from effective and ineffective national legislation, the experience of IP rights holders, and legislative and regulatory measures to enforce intellectual property right protection in FTZs. These specific recommendations are delineated in the report for action by the World Customs Organization, World Trade Organization, national governments, and FTZ operators. Effective implementation of the measures delineated for each of these bodies will go a long way in securing FTZs from illicit traders.
Today, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) released their Joint WCO-ICAO Guiding Principles for Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information and Joint WCO-ICAO Guidelines on Alignment of the Customs Authorized Economic Operator and Aviation Security Regulated Agent/Known Consignor Programmes. These Guiding Principles and Guidelines are a result of continuous joint efforts over the last 10 years, following serious threats and vulnerabilities to international trade supply chains.
“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to facilitate safe and secure vaccine distribution, strong collaboration among Customs, Civil Aviation Authorities and the relevant stakeholders is highly recommended,” said the WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. “WCO and ICAO Members are encouraged to make the best use of advance cargo information for risk assessment as well as to align partnership and security programmes to ensure secure and efficient air cargo supply chains,” he added.
With the new Joint WCO-ICAO Guiding Principles for Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI), another layer is being added to the multi-layered approach to Aviation Security in order to detect Improvised Explosive Devices/Improvised Incendiary Devices (IED/IID) in air cargo. These PLACI principles should not be used as a standalone method of Aviation Security (AVSEC) screening or air cargo security control, but rather to perform an additional assessment of the potential Aviation Security risks represented by a consignment.
These Joint Guiding Principles comprise several key and specific principles to meet the needs and capabilities of both regulators and industry, and provide guidance for the risk analysis process. Combined with intelligence and other information, PLACI consignment data enables regulators to perform an initial assessment of the potential risks posed by a consignment. The results of the initial assessment may also indicate the need for additional action.
These Guidelines aim to assist WCO and ICAO Members wishing to assess the similarities between their Customs and AVSEC security programmes, with the intention of further aligning them. This collaborative work should ultimately lead to simplification of procedures and eradication of duplicate security requirements and controls, to the benefit of the authorities and the airline industry.
SARS’ Customs unit made a bust of rhino horn with an estimated value of R53 172 000, in a shipment destined for Malaysia.
While conducting manifest profiling at the courier facilities, the Customs Detector Dog Unit at O.R.Tambo International Airport selected a suspicious shipment declared as ‘HP Cartridges Developers’.
The three-piece shipment was taken to the X-ray scanner for non-intrusive inspection, where the image analysis reflected objects resembling the shape of rhino horns. The shipment was taken for physical inspection and upon inspection of the boxes, 18 pieces of rhino horn were found concealed in traditional clothing. The goods weighed 63kg.
This is the fourth rhino horn bust by SARS Customs at the O.R.Tambo International Airport between July 2020 and February 2021. The overall weight of the rhino horn seized in these four cases is 277.30 kg with an estimated value of R 234 114 206.
The Customs officers immediately called the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks) to the scene, who confiscated the shipment for further investigation.
In his reaction to this massive seizure of the rhino horn, Commissioner Edward Kieswetter congratulated the Customs officers for their excellent work. He warned the perpetrators of crime that SARS, working with other law enforcement agencies, would spare no efforts in confronting and dealing decisively with any criminal malfeasance. Those that are involved in such egregious and merciless killing of rhinoceros and mutilating them will be brought to book.
He furthermore said, “Those who are determined to destroy the rich natural endowment of our country, which is a common treasure and heritage for all, that we should look after for future generations, will be met with unwavering commitment of our officers to enforce the law.”
Source: South African Revenue Service, 4 February 2021