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Smugglers use more bizarre ways to sneak goods past HCM City customs officials

Update: September, 16/2017 - 10:26
Everyday, millions of containers make their way to and from the ports of HCM City. They may hold food, electronics, clothing, toys, cars, lumber: virtually every item imaginable.— Photo

HCM CITY —  Everyday, millions of containers make their way to and from the ports of HCM City. They may hold food, electronics, clothing, toys, cars, lumber: virtually every item imaginable.

Chances are good that hidden somewhere within those shipments—inside a tire or a hollowed-out log—there’s illegal cargo. And the difficult task of finding it falls to the customs authorities.

Lately, however, it appears smugglers and fraud traders are getting more creative when it comes to smuggling illegal goods into Việt Nam. According to Phạm Quốc Hùng, deputy director of the HCM City Customs Departement, smuggling and trade fraud have increased rapidly at HCM City ports and new tricks have appeared.

Many businesses only declare some of the names of goods in customs declaration papers and do not declare other items in the shipments to evade the control of customs authorities, he said.

Some also sought to open customs declarations in other localities to get their goods through ports more easily.

Enterprises have also tried to trick customs officers by sending goods to third countries to avoid import taxes. But later on, they transport the goods back to the domestic market.

According to the Customs Department, the most common illegally imported goods were second-hand electronics, freezing equipment and wildlife products.

Customs officers have detected over 1,000 cases of violation and rejected many false declaration papers, designed to lower the importer’s tax or avoid it altogether, said Hùng. Many big smuggling cases have been brought to court.

Their tricks are complicated and different from those of previous years, Hùng said. Smugglers have used many bizzare methods to pass the customs agencies inspection, but some failed, he said.

In a large-scale ivory trafficking case that was prosecuted last year, nearly one tonne of ivory was hidden among timber in two containers, on its way to Cambodia via Việt Nam.

The ivory seized in Cát Lái Port had been packed with sawdust and layers of plasters and asphalt to hide it.

For customs officers, finding smuggled goods is like playing the hardest game of hike-and-seek, an official said.

For consignments of imported goods, some businesses or clients change their customs declaration documents or make unclear or even false declarations on corporate profiles, the department said.

Smugglers also often claim the value of goods is lower than it really is or that they have fewer goods than they actually do, or re-use purchase invoice.

The department also reported that they detected many newly established enterprises did not operate at the addresses stated in their business registration licences. And the names of many of the enterprises’ directors were false; in many cases the supposed “director” did not exist.

“Therefore, it is very difficult to identify the offender when the enterprise deliberately avoids the customs authorities,” Hùng said. “We have reported these cases to the authorities and hopefully soon they’ll come up with measures to restore law and order.”

According to Đàm Thanh Thế, chief of office of the national steering committee against smuggling, trade fraud and counterfeit (Steering Committee 389), several major cases have been discovered, arrested and punished but the number of arrests of heads of smuggling groups is still limited.

There should be close co-operation between agencies to find out “ghost” enterprises behind the offences and  effective punishments to deter smuggling and trade fraud, he said. - VNS


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