Argentina Customs Fraud – Similarities to Venezuela

Arg-aduana

A customs fraud that allegedly allowed a criminal network to steal millions from Argentina’s government looks eerily similar to how some of Venezuela’s private businesses and corrupt government officials have also benefitted from that Andean nation’s efforts to manipulate currency values.

Argentine authorities conducted 23 simultaneous search warrants and arrested 10 individuals accused of defrauding the state by more than $300 million between 2012 and 2015, according to a July 11 press release by Argentina’s Security Minister.

The scheme was rooted in the difference between the dollar’s official value against the Argentine peso and its informal black market price. Authorities claim that 55 front companies were used to falsify Anticipated Sworn Declarations of Importation (Declaraciones Juradas Anticipadas de Importación – DJAI). These documents allowed import companies to buy dollars from the government at a subsidized price in order to buy foreign goods. Argentina’s previous administration artificially boosted the value of a peso, so an official dollar was worth much less than on the black market. But under the scheme, DJAIs were produced for goods that were never imported and with the sole purpose of buying cheaper official dollars, before selling them at a much higher price on the black market exchange.

The investigation, initiated last year after an official complaint from the director of Argentina’s customs agency, focuses on a network of textile companies owned by members of Buenos Aires’ Korean community, according to Infobae.

Infobae, which described the well-structured network integrated by professional accountants as a “mafia,” notes that not a single official has been charged for corruption, even though the official press release admits that bribes were paid.

The scheme currently investigated in Argentina illustrates how organized crime can profit from government monetary policy, as well as a good dose of corruption.

The sum involved may appear large, but other regional country’s losses to such frauds are measured in percentages of the gross domestic product and reach the highest levels. In Guatemala, for example, corruption reached as high as the president, who was directly leading and benefitting from a vast customs fraud, according to government investigators prosecuting the case.

Argentina’s case, however, appears to have more similarities to Venezuela. Indeed, the latter’s government control of currency exchange rates and the sale of dollars was exploited to embezzle as much as $70 billion in a decade, reported The New York Times. And following a regional pattern, corruption stood as a primary factor enabling these frauds.

Source: InsightCrime.org and WCO IRIS Portal

If you thought trade in Africa is bad, consider this!

On January 10 2012 the Argentine tax authorities passed General Resolution 3252/2012, requiring importers to file an advance import affidavit before the definitive import of any type of goods. The affidavit is analysed by the tax authorities and by any other relevant government agency; only once approval has been granted may the import be carried out  The resolution applies to all types of product definitively imported into the country as from February 1 2012.

Under the resolution, importers must file an affidavit (through the tax authority’s website) before issuing a purchase order or similar document. The authority will inform importers (through its online application) of any news regarding the status of their petition and, if applicable, the reasons for any objections made and the government agencies where importers can remedy those objections. Importers must enter the affidavit number in the authority’s María Information System when the goods enter customs clearance. The customs clearance process will be automatically stopped if this number is not entered.

The tax authority has a 72-hour period (from the date on which the affidavit is filed by the importer) to make any comments. This time period may be extended by up to 10 calendar days in “those cases in which the specific activities of the agency in charge so requests”. Once the above periods have elapsed with no comments being made, the import operation may continue. Otherwise, the comments should be dealt with by the importer with the agency that raised them.

Import operations that already have an open irrevocable letter of credit (or similar document) or that have been prepaid (in both cases dating from before February 1 2012) are exempt from the obligation to obtain an affidavit. However, there are some contradictions in the text of the resolution that may create problems at the time of applying this exemption. The following import operations, among others, are exempt from the obligation to obtain an affidavit:

  • imports made under the courier or sample regimes;
  • imports that relate to turnkey projects (provided that they were approved before February 1 2012); or
  • imports that are sent in different shipments (provided that they were approved before February 1 2012).

At present, the foreign trade sector of Argentina is almost paralysed, with no clear sense of direction. Only time will tell whether the affidavit system starts processing requests relatively smoothly, or if the paralysis will result in an increase in litigation by desperate importers. Source: taken from the article: “Argentina’s foreign trade paralysis continues” – International Law Office.