German and Belgian Customs Officials seize 23 tonnes of cocaine

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.

Source: Daily Sabah, 24 February 2021

ICC – Controlling the zone: balancing facilitation and control to combat illicit trade in the world’s free trade zones

Photo by Noel Broda on Unsplash

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.

The Risks

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.

Key recommendations:

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.

Download the Document via this hyperlink

Source: International Chamber of Commerce

SARS – Massive Rhino Horn bust worth R53-million

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

Dutch Tax Authority & EUROPOL – Big illicit tobacco bust

One of the largest illegal cigarette factories ever uncovered in the Netherlands has been taken offline by law enforcement, with 13 arrests.

The Europol-supported operation – led by the investigation service of the Dutch tax authorities or FIOD – concentrated on an illegal tobacco factory in West-Betuwe, south of Utrecht. Along with the 13 arrests, 3.6m cigarettes and 32 tonnes of tobacco were seized along with packaging material, cigarette paper, filters and glue.

The tax loss prevented to the Dutch state revenue for the illegal production is estimated at €6m, according to Europol, and the Dutch authorities have estimated that the machinery could potentially produce 1m cigarettes a day.

The enforcement action comes just a few weeks after an illegal tobacco factory capable of making 10m cigarettes per week was raided in the German city of Kranenburg, revealing once again the extent of illicit cigarette production within the EU.

A recent study by KPMG  found that imports of illicit cigarettes from non-EU countries such as Ukraine and Belarus declined in 2019, with law enforcement reports suggesting there are “increasing volumes from illegal factories within the EU.”

The latest raid was somewhat unusual however in that the entire production cycle took place in one factory, whereas generally production is dispersed across multiple facilities so criminals can spread the risk.

“The production is believed to have been destined for the black market in countries where the retail price of cigarettes is high,” says Europol. “The factory is presumed to have produced 18m illegal cigarettes seized abroad in recent months.”

Illicit cigarettes typically contain even higher levels of toxic ingredients such as tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide than genuine brand-name products.

They also pose a greater fire risk as they do not include designs that ensure that a lit cigarette will self-extinguish if not actively smoked.

Source: SecuringInustry.com

Gucci – Pokes fun at Counterfeiters with “Fake/Not” collection

Italian designer brand Gucci has been battling counterfeiting of its products for decades, and has drawn attention to the problem with a tongue-in-cheek new collection.

According to Gucci, the “Fake/Not” collection for Fall/Winter 2020 – which includes men’s and women’s wear as well as bags and shoes – “began with a print inspired by a retro appropriation of the Gucci logo featuring the bicolour stripe.”

It goes on: “Entering a new chapter, the green and red design mixes with ‘Fake/Not’—a playful commentary on the idea of imitation.”

‘Fake’ is printed in bold lettering on one side of the item – in fact, it looks a lot like the real/fake comparisons one might see in pictures online – with ‘Not’ on the other.

Source: SecuringIndustry.com

WCO 2019 Illicit Trade Report

The WCO has issued its 2019 Illicit Trade Report (ITR), an annual publication which offers a comprehensive study of illicit trade flows through an in-depth analysis of seizure data and case studies voluntarily submitted by Member Customs administrations worldwide. 

The information captured in the ITR provides essential insight into the occurrences of illicit trade, thereby assisting Customs administrations in understanding trends and patters and making enlightened decisions to secure cross-border trade. The importance of comprehensive data analysis is indisputably a key component to support effective and efficient Customs enforcement activities. 

This year, the analysis provided in this Report is based on data collected from 137 Member administrations and the report consists of six sections: Cultural Heritage; Drugs; Environment; IPR, Health and Safety; Revenue and Security. 

For the fourth year in a row, the WCO has partnered with the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting, thereby enriching readers’ experience with advanced data visualization technologies and enhanced data analysis.  

Access the 2019 Illicit Trade Report here! (45MB)

Source: World Customs Organisation

Tanzania – Electronic Tax Stamp Pushes Up Revenue By 34%

THE use of Electronic Tax Stamps (ETS) for excisable goods have contributed to a 34 percent increase in revenue collected on branded products.

Due to the increase, the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) has already rolled out the second phase which saw ETS being stamped on soft and carbonated drink plus bottled water.

TRA Deputy Commissioner General, Mr Msafiri Mbibo made the remarks during the on-going 44th Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF).

Mr Mbibo said since the system was introduced it has proven success showing improvement in revenue collections in which there is an increase of 34 percent.

ETS replaces the former paper stamp system, which was cumbersome and prone to human error, allowing certain tax-related malpractices to slip through the cracks.

This is one of the government’s moves geared towards improving tax administration in the country.

“We are glad that ETS shows improvement in the collection of excise duty and Value-added Tax (VAT), in the first quarter of the 2019/20 financial year the collection rose to 35.3 per cent on domestic spirits and wines compared to the corresponding period of last year,” he noted.

The taxman garnered 25.8bn/-as excise duty and VAT from domestic spirits and wines during the first quarter of the 2018/19 fiscal year, but the amount rose to 34.96bn/- during the first quarter of the 2019/2020 financial year.

Excise duty and VAT on cigarettes rose by 5.6 percent during the first quarter of the 2019/2020 financial year compared to a similar period last year.

TRA collected 56.7bn/-as excise duty and VAT on cigarettes from July to September 2019, a 3bn/-increase from a similar period of the previous financial year.

For the soft drinks, the amount collected as excise duty and VAT during the two months of August and September 2019 was 18 percent, higher than what was garnered during a similar period in 2018.

TRA collected 16.155bn/-in excise duty and VAT on soft drinks in August and September 2018, but the amount rose to 19.05bn/-during the period between August and September 2019.

Mr Mbibo said ETS has helped to eliminate counterfeit products from the market. It is, nonetheless, a promising move by the Government, and manufacturers and intellectual property owners should have reason to smile.

Commenting on how TRA is planning to ensure the surge the tax base, Mbibo said they will continue to develop friendly tax collection mechanisms so that everyone can enjoy voluntary taxation.

ETS first phase commenced on 15 January 2019 and affected cigarettes, wines, spirits, beer and all other alcoholic beverages.

The second phase began on 1 August 2019 and applied to products such as sweetened or flavoured water and other non-alcoholic beverages, except for fruit or vegetable juice.

The Regulations require each manufacturer to install an electronic tax stamp management system.

A Swiss-based firm SICPA has been contracted by the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to install and enroll all manufacturers, producers and importers onto the system.

Source: Daily News (Tanzania), 8 July 2020

Illicit cigarette use declines in EU but production rises

The consumption of illicit cigarettes fell below 8 per cent of total cigarette use last year, but was still equivalent to nearly 39bn smokes and €9.5bn in lost tax revenues, says a new report.

The latest edition of the annual study – carried out by KPMG on behalf of tobacco giant Philip Morris International – also found that imports of illicit cigarettes from non-EU countries such as Ukraine and Belarus declined in 2019, with law enforcement reports suggesting there are “increasing volumes from illegal factories within the EU.”

Illicit ‘whites’ with no country specific labelling – i.e. legally produced cigarettes that are smuggled and traded illegally, often through free trade zones (FTZs) – remain the largest element of the counterfeit and contraband (C&C) category, representing 23.1 per cent of total EU illicit consumption or 9bn cigarettes.

Counterfeit of brands owned by manufacturers participating in empty pack surveys grew to 7.6bn cigarettes, an increase of more than 38 percent over 2018’s figure, and is the highest level ever recorded by KPMG. Counterfeit consumption was the highest in the UK and Greece.

The overall picture is one of increasing sophistication by the criminal networks behind the illicit trade, with multiple production units to compensate if one is raised, and increasingly high tech manufacturing equipment. New groups are also emerging that are focusing specifically on smuggling raw and fine cut tobacco.

“Illicit manufacturers are producing counterfeit, established and new illicit white brands to order at scale for organisations and smugglers who can arrange distribution of large volumes, either in large shipments or increasingly via high frequency, low volume shipments,” says KPMG.

Criminal groups are exploiting new distribution channels, such as rail, as it is faster than traditional shipping routes, as well as courier packages which are small and hard for law enforcement to detect, according to the report.

“The continued decline of illicit tobacco trade in the EU is a positive development and reinforces the importance of supply chain control measures, strict enforcement, and collaboration in combating this issue,” said Alvise Giustiniani, vice president of Illicit Trade Prevention at PMI.

However, while considerable efforts have taken place to stem contraband cigarettes from flowing into the EU, “we are once again seeing criminal organisations shifting their operations to stay one step ahead of anti-illicit programmes, according to the company.

Source: Phil Taylor, Securing Industry, 26 June 2020

A Triangle of Vulnerability – Illicit Trafficking off the Swahili Coast

Reports such as this should serve as intelligence for any law enforcement entity within the region as well as countries impacted by such illegal activities downstream.

A triangle of vulnerability for illicit trafficking is emerging as a key geographic space along Africa’s eastern seaboard – the Swahili coast.
At one apex of this triangle is Zanzibar, a major hub for illicit trade for decades, but one that is currently assuming greater importance. Further south, another apex is northern Mozambique. This area is experiencing significant conflict and instability, and is increasingly a key through route for the illicit trafficking of heroin into the continent and wildlife products from the interior. The final apex of the triangle is out to sea: the Comoros islands, lying 290 kilometres offshore from northern Mozambique and north-east of Madagascar. Comoros is not yet a major trafficking hub, but perennial political instability and its connections into the wider sub-regional trafficking economy make it uniquely vulnerable as illicit trade continues to evolve along the wider Swahili coastal region. These three apexes are linked by illicit economies and trade routes which take little heed of modern political boundaries.

Two main factors underlie the illicit markets that form the primary focus of this study. First, the powerful market demand for illicit wildlife products from Asia (and China in particular), and second, the steady growth in the volumes of heroin moving down the coast, with landings being made further and further south. The Indian Ocean islands themselves have long had serious challenges with heroin trafficking and use, and these are being exacerbated. Developments in Zanzibar, northern Mozambique and Comoros will have a crucial impact on wider patterns of trafficking and trade across the Swahili coast as a whole. For example, as we doc- ument the trade in endangered species from Madagascar which flows to Zanzibar and Comoros, Madagascar is also seen as a potential risk area for an increase in heroin trafficking.

At the time of writing, the impact of COVID-19 in the wider region was just becoming clearer as countries entered lockdown and began to restrict some forms of trade. The effect of these developments on the illicit political economy will still unfold in time to come.

Source: A Triangle of Vulnerability – Illicit Trafficking off the Swahili Coast authored by Alastair Nelson, June 2020

Also read: The Heroin Coast

The Illicit Tobacco Trade in Zimbabwe and South Africa

The following report (Working Paper) was issued in March 2019, a while back, but should not be considered too outdated for analysis and consideration, nevertheless.

A study was conducted to explore how the illicit trade in licit goods supports organized crime, corruption, and erodes state structures. The illicit tobacco trade in southern Africa occupies a prominent place in southern African politics, due to its prominent role in the ‘state capture’ scandals that characterized politics in South Africa between 2013 and 2018. Indeed, the illicit tobacco trade occupies a prominent place in public debate in South Africa, both about crimes that may have been committed in the last five years, and about how the current administration responds to the illicit economy right now.

The study maps the key dimensions of the illicit cigarette trade in Zimbabwe and South Africa, including the key actors, the pathways of trade and the accompanying ‘modalities’ of criminality, as well as other important dimensions of the illicit cigarette market in southern Africa. It then identifies ‘good-faith actors,’ primarily in South Africa, whose positions could be strengthened by policy and technical interventions, explores opportunities for such intervention, and assesses the practi- cal solutions that can be applied to combat illicit trade and tax evasion in the tobacco industry. The paper contributes to expanding awareness among policymakers and the public of the nexus between the illicit trade in licit goods, corruption, and organized criminal networks.

Download the Report via this link.

Source: Atlantic Council

The Diffusion of Heroin in Eastern and Southern Africa

This research report “A Shallow Flood: The Diffusion of Heroin in Eastern and Southern Africa(click hyperlink to access report) draws from and analyzes field data examining three characteristics of the illicit drug economy in a selected number of countries of eastern and southern Africa:

  • Price. This part of the data identifies the retail price (i.e. street price) for heroin in a given market location, and examines factors that influence retail price variations within a particular market, and between markets.
  • Distribution system. Identifying the means by which heroin is moved between wholesale and retail vending situations, and how it is moved within and between adjacent and/or distant markets.
  • Market structure. Identifying core structural components of domestic heroin markets in the region, with particular attention to those features that enable markets to emerge and flourish, as well as factors that disrupt or deteriorate these markets.

The flow of heroin from Asian production points to the coastal shores of eastern and southern Africa is not new. Whereas the first heroin transit routes in the region in the 1970s relied heavily on maritime transport to enter the continent, a number of transport modes and urban centres of the interior have increasingly become important features in the current movement of heroin in this region. Interior transit hubs and networks have developed around air transport nodes that use regular regional and international connections to ship heroin. As regional air routes proliferated and became more efficient, their utility and value for the heroin trade increased as well. Heroin is also consolidated and shipped over a frequently shifting network of overland routes, moving it deeper into the African interior in a south-westerly direction across the continent.

Consequently, a shallow flood of heroin has gradually seeped across the region, and this has had a significant impact on the many secondary towns found along the continent’s transcontinental road networks. These places, in turn, have spawned their own small local heroin markets, and become waypoints in rendering sustainable the now chronic, metered progression of heroin’s resolute geographic diffusion across the region.

The impact of this creeping spread of heroin on regional state development has been significant and, paradoxically, symbiotic. The emerging illicit African drug market environments may represent credible threats to the development and security of the region’s nascent independent state institutions and structures. At the same time, these markets have also presented new and considerable sources of economic livelihood and opportunity for the continent’s ever-expanding population of poor, disenfranchised and vulnerable people. A surrogate ‘drug working class’ has emerged as a socio-economic sequela to more traditional, yet increasingly limited, licit income opportunities.

The purpose of this report is to examine the diffusion of heroin across eastern and southern Africa. This will be achieved through an analysis of retail heroin prices, distribution systems and domestic marketplaces. The report provides an analytical summary of heroin market data collected across the countries of the region, with specific retail price points, commentary on domestic heroin distribution systems and structures, and a discussion of the common structural characteristics evident across the region that enable, embed and sustain these heroin markets.

Source: Authored by Jason Eligh, Global Initiative against Transnational and Organised Crime, 28 May 2020

WCO – COVID-19 Update

Counterfeit medical supplies and introduction of export controls on personal protective equipment

The WCO reminds the general public to exercise extreme caution when purchasing critical medical supplies from unknown sources, particularly online. The use of these goods may cost lives. 

While the world is gripped by the fight against COVID-19, criminals have turned this into an opportunity for fraudulent activity. There have been an alarming number of reports quoting seizures of counterfeit critical medical supplies, such as face masks and hand sanitizers in particular. 

Customs and law enforcement agencies in China, Germany, Indonesia, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam, to name but a few, have reported such seizures in the past three weeks. 

Moreover, there was a significant increase in seizures of counterfeit and unauthorized face masks and hand sanitizers during Operation Pangea XIII, a collaborative enforcement effort by the WCO, Interpol, Europol, Customs administrations, Police forces and other law enforcement agencies. This Operation, held from 3 to 10 March 2020, resulted in the seizure of 37,258 counterfeit medical devices, of which 34,137 were surgical masks. 

Online retailers have also announced a surge in sales of counterfeit goods. In particular, a US company reported the removal from its marketplace of a million products claiming to cure or prevent COVID-19. Tens of thousands of listings were removed because of price hiking, particularly for products in high demand such as masks. In one operation, US Customs and Border Protection seized counterfeit COVID-19 test kitswhich had arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) by mail from the United Kingdom. This seizure triggered a joint investigation by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crimes Unit (PIPCO), the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), resulting in one arrest and the seizure of 300 more kits and 20 litres of chemicals for the production of such kits. 

Given the shortages and the activities of market speculators, another important trend is the introduction of export licences for certain categories of critical medical supplies, such as face masks, gloves and protective gear. In particular, on 11 March 2020 Vietnam adopted Decision 868/QD-BYT by the Ministry of Health, introducing export permits for medical masks. The European Union (EU) introduced a temporary export licensing scheme for personal protective equipment as of 14 March 2020 (see Commission implementing Regulation 2020/402). Other countries, such as Brazil, India, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine, have also followed suit. 

The EU’s dual-use export control regime will also continue to be applied to more sophisticated items such as full face masks, protective gear, gloves and shoes, specifically designed for dealing with ‘biological agents’. The full list of such items can be found in Annex I to EU Regulation 428/2009, as amended.  

The WCO urges its Member Customs administrations to remain vigilant in these difficult times.

Please consult the relevant section of the WCO’s website regarding COVID-19 information, including changes in legislation, new trends and patterns, and initiatives by partners and Member administrations. 

The WCO stands ready to continue working with all its partners to disrupt the supply chains of counterfeit products that put the lives of millions of people at risk.

Source: WCO Website, 23 March 2020

Top Wildlife Detective Shot in Cold Blood

Recent good news reports indicating a decrease in rhino poaching have been marred by the sudden death of one of law enforcements top detectives.

Colleagues and friends of Lieutenant Colonel Leroy Bruwer are in shock after the leading rhino-poaching detective was gunned down in an apparent assassination.

Leroy (49), commander of the Hawks in Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit), was shot dead in his car on Tuesday morning while on his way to work.

The investigation is ongoing but according to a police statement, he was shot with a heavy-calibre weapon.

Pieter Smit, commander of the Mbombela police’s quick-response unit, says his heart broke when he arrived on the scene and saw his colleague and friend’s lifeless body.

“Hate, sadness and tears with mixed feelings,” Pieter, who was one of the first people to arrive on the scene, wrote on Facebook.

Leroy’s body had been unrecognisably mutilated by the AK-47 gunfire, Pieter continued his Facebook post. He says the only way he knew it was Leroy is because he called his friend’s number and saw the cellphone ringing in the car.

“It breaks the heart of a grown man. Leroy, you were an honest policeman and worthy officer. You didn’t deserve this.

“I salute you. Rest in peace, colleague and friend.” 

Brigadier Hangwani Malaudzi, Hawks spokesman, says a specialised task team has been formed to investigate the murder. “We’re hoping for a breakthrough soon.”

He adds Leroy was a formidable detective and made many breakthroughs in the fight against rhino poaching.

“All the evidence points to Leroy having been the target. It looks like an assassination,” Malaudzi says.

Police are following up on all leads to find the suspects.

Source: Picture and article by Jacques Myburgh, News24, 19 March 2020

National Treasury – calls for written comments on proposal on export taxes on scrap metal

Following the announcement made by the Minister of Finance in the 2020 Budget Review regarding the introduction of export taxes on scrap metal, the National Treasury today publishes for consultation the basic approach for such tax. This proposal is related to the phasing out of the current price preference system for scrap steel, and follows the recommendations from a feasibility study conducted by the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC).   

Given the need to consult all stakeholders, including possible winners and losers, the consultation will take place in two phases.  The first phase will be a shorter and broader public comment process on the objective, implementation, functioning and economic and financial impact of such an export tax, including the level of rates and base for such a tax. Comments on the impact to current firms and industries, and the implications for the tax and trade system will also be welcome, as well as comments on strengthening the administrative capacity of SARS to implement such export taxes.  

The first phase will be followed by a more intensive second phase of public comment, on the proposed legislative provisions to give effect to specific export taxes on scrap metal, to be included in the 2020 draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (TLAB).  The first phase will commence immediately and run up to the end of April 2020, while the second phase will commence with the publication of the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill in mid-July and run up to the end of August/September 2020. 

As recommended by ITAC, the proposed export taxes to apply to scrap metal are as follows

Scrap metal category Equivalent specific tax (Rand per tonne) Ferrous metals (including stainless steel) R1000.00 per tonne Aluminium R3000.00 per tonne Red Metals R8426.00 per tonne Other (waste and scrap metals) R1000.00 per tonne  

Written comments on the proposal on export taxes on scrap metal must be submitted by no later than 9 April 2020.    

Upon receipt of the comments and submissions on the proposal on export taxes on scrap metal, the National Treasury (working with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and other governmental stakeholders) will engage directly with stakeholders until the end of April through technical workshops to discuss the comments received.  Thereafter, the proposed provisions on the export taxes on scrap metal will be developed for inclusion in the TLAB, which will be published in mid-July 2020 for public comment. 

Further, as part of the TLAB consultation process, National Treasury will also engage with stakeholders through the usual workshops held after the receipt of written comments on the draft Bill.  The Standing and Select Committees on Finance in Parliament are expected to make a similar call for public comment, and convene public hearings on the TLAB before the formal introduction of the Bill in Parliament. Thereafter, a response document on the comments received will be presented at the parliamentary committee hearings, after which the 2020 draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill will then be revised, taking into account public comments and recommendations made during committee hearings, before the Bill is tabled formally in Parliament for consideration.  

The proposal on export taxes on scrap metal is included in Chapter 4 of the 2020 Budget Review, which can be found on the National Treasury (www.treasury.gov.za) website.   

Due date for written comments: 9 April 2020  

Source: National Treasury website, 10 March 2020

Illicit Cigarettes – Hong Kong customs intercepts four shipping containers

Photo: Winson Wong

Hong Kong customs has uncovered HK$85 million worth of smuggled cigarettes in the largest seizure of its kind in two decades, after authorities acted on intelligence indicating a syndicate was shipping the haul into the city in four containers.

Some 31 million cigarettes were stashed in the containers from Yokohama in Japan. They were then shipped through different ports in South Korea, Vietnam and mainland China, according to Lee Hoi-man, deputy head of the Revenue and General Investigation Bureau under customs.

He said the circuitous route was used by smugglers to avoid detection.

“The containers were shipped into three to four different ports before they came to Hong Kong,” Lee said adding that the contents listed on import documents were changed to throw off law enforcement in various jurisdictions.

Four men – one mainlander and three Hongkongers – aged between 24 and 41 were arrested in the operation on Monday. They were still being held for questioning on Tuesday evening.

Information on the containers was shared to a global database operated jointly by customs from different countries, under an anti-smuggling campaign code-named “Project Crocodile”.

A law enforcement source said the containers were left idle at another port since December, but were then suddenly moved across different countries before arriving in Hong Kong, one at a time since last Friday.

Lee said: “It is possible smugglers believed our frontline officers were tied up in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.” He added that some of the contraband items were believed to be destined for countries in eastern Europe as some cigarette brands seized in the operation were popular there.

Hong Kong customs began investigating the syndicate in mid-December before identifying the four containers.

On Monday afternoon, officers from the Revenue and General Investigation Bureau swooped into action and seized 22 million sticks of cigarettes stashed in three containers at yards in Yuen Long, Sheung Shui and Man Kam To, arresting the four men.

At the Sheung Shui site, officers also seized 3,500 bottles of duty-not-paid liquor worth HK$2.5 million.

On Tuesday, the fourth container which had arrived from Shenzhen a day before was selected for inspection. Nine million cigarettes were found in it.

Lee said the combined haul had an estimated street value of HK$85 million, and was the biggest seizure of its kind in two decades in a single operation.

He said his team was working with overseas counterparts to determine the exact origin of the shipment and track down the ring leader and core syndicate members.

In Hong Kong, importing or exporting unmanifested cargo carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and a HK$2 million fine.

Source: Article by Clifford Lo, South Morning Post, 18 February 2020