Archives For illicit trade

Kunio Mikuriya - Hindu Times

The Hindu Times reports that the World Customs Organization (WCO) will soon bring out guidelines on ‘cross-border e-commerce’, which will focus on preventing illegal trade as well as addressing the challenges stemming from the ‘digital divide’, according to the WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya.

In an interview to The Hindu on his recent India trip, Mr. Mikuriya said, “We are developing guidelines on e-commerce to see how best Customs can facilitate legitimate trade through that route.” He added, “We [the WCO] will address issues related to digital divide by looking into what is blocking e-commerce trade, and what kind of enabling environment is needed to support developing countries so that they benefit more from e-commerce.”

Terming e-commerce as a “game changer” in global trade that is benefiting small firms and consumers, he said the new guidelines would, however, include provisions to prevent illegal trade and illicit financial flows. This would be ensured through measures that would help strengthen information exchange between Customs administrations of countries as well as collaboration with other government agencies.

The WCO has a Working Group on e-Commerce and four sub-groups. To develop guidelines on cross-border e-commerce, the work packages identified are: ‘trade facilitation and simplification of procedures’, ‘safety and security’, ‘revenue collection’, and ‘measurement and analysis’. According to the UN body ‘UNCTAD’, the value of online trade jumped from $16 trillion to $22 trillion between 2013 and 2015.

“The continuous increase in online trading has raised questions regarding regulation, consumer protection, revenue collection and national security,” according to the WCO’s ‘Study Report on Cross-Border E-Commerce’ (March 2017). “These questions cannot be dealt with individually, but require a common, broad approach by the international Customs community, together with all relevant stakeholders as a whole.”

The WCO said more sophisticated equipment was needed to combat illicit trading through low-value shipments in the postal, express and cargo streams.

“Pre-arrival information on the consignment and the consignee could be of great importance in detecting and intercepting illicit trade. In addition, the improvement of non-intrusive inspection equipment and an increase in the number of trained staff could help to enhance the detection rate of illicit goods,” it said.

In an article on e-commerce, the WCO’s Director of Compliance and Facilitation Ana Hinojosa pointed out that in many countries, there were de minimisthresholds that allow low-value packages to enter a country with little or no duties or taxes, and with much more simplified procedures.

“This has led to clever manipulations by either the shipper or the consumer to avoid the extra charges by splitting invoices, undervaluing the invoices or mis-declaring the items altogether,” wrote Ms. Hinojosa. Another type of manipulation used was to classify the item as something else or claiming a different country of origin for the product, to take advantage of better duty or tax rates, the WCO official said, adding that these distortions had had an impact on many countries’ revenue collection volumes. Therefore, “some countries… are re-evaluating their established thresholds due to the significant implications that the changes brought about by these growing volumes of low-value small packages are having on their fiscal revenues,” observed Ms. Hinojosa. Source: The Hindu, 2 August 2017.

WCO News – June 2016

June 28, 2016 — 2 Comments

WCO News June 2016 (1)The WCO has published the 80th edition of WCO News, the Organization’s flagship magazine aimed at the global Customs community.

This edition features a special dossier on illicit trade which gathers together articles focusing on the trafficking in various commodities such as cultural goods, small arms, fisheries products and pesticides, as well as articles highlighting the tools and technologies that can contribute to enhancing Customs enforcement capabilities.

Readers will also benefit from articles on how pollen analysis (palynology) has become an essential Customs forensic and intelligence tool in the United States, the challenges in accurately quantifying the illicit trade in tobacco, and why publishing time release study results is advantageous. Source: WCO

Cigarettes+XXX+smokingThe nation awaits the 2015 Budget Speech with trepidation to know if income taxes will rise. But there is unanimous certainty there will, as per usual, be an increase in ‘Specific Excise Duties’. The only question is by how much? Taxation of cigarettes and tobacco products appears to be the path of least resistance for tax-collectors. It receives little backlash from the wider public (unlike e-tolls) and even support in some quarters.

The imposition of the so-called “sin taxes” on cigarettes and liquor products, in addition to generating significant fiscal revenues, does serve an economic purpose. Unlike normal goods and “necessity” products, cigarettes are not an essential good which people need to survive. As far back as the 1700s, Adam Smith averred “Sugar, rum, and tobacco, are commodities which are nowhere necessaries of life … are therefore extremely proper subjects of taxation.” Again, the notion of the importance of tobacco to the fiscal basket is exemplified in utmost simplicity and honesty – if a politician, or an emperor in this case can be believed –

This vice brings in one hundred million francs in taxes every year. I will certainly forbid it at once – as soon as you can name a virtue that brings in as much revenue [Napoleon III (1800s) – reply when asked to ban smoking]

Despite all the furore over public health and governments efforts to decrease the demand for cigarettes, South Africa is no different to other nations – annual tobacco revenues to the state coffers amounts to around R10 Billion! Another round of sin tax increases in the upcoming budget appears inevitable, and these increases are spawning a range of unintended (but not unexpected) consequences – the illicit trade. Source: Polity.org / DNA Economics.

CigarettesAn intricate web of smugglers, which reportedly involves manufacturers and middlemen, has been illegally carting cigarettes worth millions of dollars out of the country over the years, prejudicing the treasury of vital revenue.

Cigarette manufacturer, Savanna, has been fingered as one of the main culprits, while multinationals like BAT have also been mentioned in the illicit cross-border trade, mainly to South Africa.

Commonly smuggled brands include Remington Gold, Madison, Sevilles, Magazine Blue, Chelsea and Pacific Blue, manufactured by Savanna – which consistently denies smuggling.

A senior police sokesperson said “Even though we don’t always talk about it, we have managed to make significant arrests and the cases have been taken to court. The arrests include smuggling attempts at undesignated spots along the border and through official exit points such as Beitbridge”

A senior customs official told The Zimbabwean that cigarette smuggling, particularly through Beitbridge and Plumtree border posts, was difficult to arrest because of corruption.

“Policing at the border posts involves several agencies, namely the police, CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation), customs and special deployments from ZIMRA (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority). The problem is that these officers work in collaboration with the smugglers and haulage trucks and other containers carrying the cigarettes are cleared without proper checking. Hefty bribes are involved and the money is too tempting to resist,” said the customs official.

“You would be amazed how wealthy these officers have become. They have bought houses, luxury cars and send their children to expensive schools – yet their regular salaries are so low,” he added.

Immigration and customs officials, who also constantly liaise with their South African and Botswana counterparts and meet physically regularly, pretend to be checking the containers but clear them without completing the task, and know what the trucks and other carriers would be ferrying.

ZIMRA has four scanners for detecting contraband and an anti-smuggling team that also uses sniffer dogs, in addition to guard soldiers posted between the Zimbabwean and South African borders.

There are about 15 regular roadblocks along the Harare-Beitbridge road and 10 between Bulawayo and Plumtree that search trucks, buses and private cars. Despite this, the smuggling continues because of the collusion among the officials, said the source.

In early January, the Ferret team, a joint operation involving Zimbabwean and South African officers, intercepted a truckload of 790 Remington Gold cigarettes worth an estimated $119,000 destined for South Africa along the Masvingo-Beitbridge road. The smugglers were caught and arrested while offloading the cartons into small trucks. Source: The Zimbabwean

illicit cigarettesSouth Africa leads Africa in the illicit trade in tobacco and is listed among the top five illicit markets globally, according to the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa, which represents tobacco growers, leaf merchants, processors, manufacturers, importers and exporters of tobacco products in SA.

More than R20bn in tax revenue has been lost in SA since 2010 due to the illicit trade in tobacco, the institute’s CEO, Francois van der Merwe, said on Wednesday. The problem is severe in SA, but Zambia, Namibia and Swaziland have estimated incidences of well above the global average of between 10% and 12%.

Mr van der Merwe said efforts to combat the illicit trade in tobacco were complicated by the links that the business had with transnational organised crime syndicates, some of which funded terrorism.

“The problem runs far deeper than enormous losses of fiscal income that could have been put to good use to bolster government efforts in education, infrastructure development and poverty alleviation,” said Mr van der Merwe.

He was speaking ahead of a meeting later in November of global, regional and local law enforcement, along with revenue and customs agencies in Cape Town, who will seek better ways to collaborate in addressing the illicit tobacco trade in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We have seen first hand what effective focus on combating illicit trade by government can achieve,” said Mr van der Merwe, ascribing a decrease in the illicit tobacco trade, from 31% to 23% this year, to better collaboration.

“This is in the most part due to the excellent efforts by the various law enforcement, customs and revenue, Treasury and defence departments in the South African government.”

Mr Van der Merwe said that although the declining numbers in SA were encouraging, this did not bode well for the rest of the region as organised crime was a moving target prone to shifting its focus to “easier” markets when it was under attack.

He claimed that those who traded in illicit products, whether cigarettes, alcohol, textiles or DVDs, or committed environmental crimes such as rhino poaching or abalone smuggling were most often also involved in other serious crimes and even the funding of terrorism and money laundering. Source: BDLive.co.za

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