HA NOI — Smugglers are increasingly taking to the sea, exploiting its vast spaces to elude law enforcement, according to the General Department of Customs, which warns that the illegal wildlife trade and the importation of substandard and counterfeit goods remain rampant.
|Inspectors from the Border Guard of northern Quang Ninh Province patrol at sea. Customs officials handled over 9,000 smuggling cases in the first half of this year. — VNA/VNS Photo Trong Duc
According to department statistics, customs officials handled over 9,000 smuggling cases in the first six months of this year, involving about VND180 billion (US$8.6 million) worth of contraband. This represented a 45-per-cent increase over the same period last year.
The most common practice deployed by smugglers was to make incorrect declarations of the quantity or types of goods. For instance, the Hai Phong customs department seized seven containers of goods that were originally declared as frozen chicken feet and wings but turned out to be mixed with animal viscera.
HCM City customs reported a similar case, seizing a container with a declaration that it contained soybeans. Inside the container there were 66 ivory tusks weighing 282kg, 2kg of pangolin scales, and one bundle of animal fur.
Another headache for customs officials has been the illegal export of natural resources, most notably coal. In Quang Ninh Province, the country's leading coal-producing region, smugglers buy coal from small ports or wharves and find ways to export it to neighbouring China.
Customs officials on the ground said that smugglers armed with state-of-the-art equipment had used increasingly ingenious tricks to get around the law. Smugglers often operated in closely-linked networks which made it difficult for customs officials to monitor their operations against the backdrop of an extensive seaport system.
A representative from the Anti-Smuggling Task Force said the proposal to boost the capacity of marine patrols was recently approved, along with a budget to purchase new equipment.
The Ministry of Finance has also received a suggestion to draft new regulations that clarify the responsibilities and co-operative mechanisms between customs and port authorities, ensuring a uniform way of making declarations. Goods kept at ports also needed to be categorised and segregated into specific areas according to their status. — VNS