Effective December 1, 2018, all Duty-Free shops in the country will be mandated to pay Customs duty and taxes at the time of importation of goods and apply for refund, to help check the dumping of goods meant for duty-free shops on the market.
“We also want to state that the operations of all Duty-Free shops are going to be subjected to comprehensive audit,” said the Commissioner General of Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Mr. Emmanuel Kofi Nti.
“We are determined to use all legitimate means to achieve the 2018 revenue target, and we will remove all obstacles militating against this objective,” he told the press after the authority arrested four persons for diverting goods worth GH¢139,359.89 from a Free Zone Enclave meant for export to the Paga Duty Free shop in the Upper East Region.
Mr. Nti said such acts derail efforts at mobilising revenue, since those who divert such Free Zones goods bring them back to the main market to compete with others that paid taxes on their imports, and thus cheat the system.
The four suspects, according to GRA, were Samuel Kwame Agbah, a worker of Comet Ghana Limited; Seth Nyarko of Magnate Technology; John Tetteh, a driver of a truck with registration number GT 5160-12; and Daniel Owusu, a driver’s mate.
Mr. Nti stated that goods made up of 2,000 cartons (12xIL) of Don Garcia Wine and 1,000 cartons of Simon Sangria Wine, attracting a duty liability of GH¢88,957.47, were removed from their warehouse located at the Tema Free Zone Enclave. The truck and its contents have been detained pending re-examination and proper reassessment.
The GRA arrested the four on Friday night, upon intelligence that the consignment – released for export to Paga the previous day – had been diverted and was being discharged at Nungua.
Mr. Nti explained that on November 6, 2018, a licenced Customs House Agent, acting on behalf of Comet Ghana Limited – a registered Free Zone Operator with no. F003 – lodged a declaration with number 92018485496 in the Ghana Customs Management System to export the consignment of wine to Paga.
However, the truck – which was mounted with E-Track Device with number 612788 obtained and allegedly fixed by technicians from Magnate Technology Limited and upon approval granted for export by Jonathan Aniewu, Officer-in-charge, Free Zones – was noted to have never reached Paga.
Mr. Nti said when GRA’s surveillance team arrived at Nungua where the goods were being discharged, it was detected that the seal had been opened with its key; and so the Authority is investigating to discover the person who provided the key to the principal suspect, Samuel Agbah – who tried to bribe the officials with GH¢2,000 with a promise to add some more subsequently.
He said the suspects, who were first handed over to the Marine Police for interrogation and detention, will soon be put before court for prosecution.
He gave assurance that the manager of Comet Ghana Limited, who is yet to report to the GRA, will be located.
He indicated that a detailed examination of the GCNet system has revealed that from September 1, 2018 to date, Comet Limited has engaged in 39 exportations; and so these exportations will be subjected to further investigations to determine whether those goods indeed reached their destinations.
Comet happens to be one of the four registered Free Zones companies operating Duty-Free shops at various border posts across the country, including Osei Kojokrom, Elubo, Aflao, Gonokrom and Paga.
In a press release signed by its Executive Secretary, Michael Okyere Baafi, the Ghana Free Zones Authority lauded the GRA for apprehending the four, pledging its support for policing the movement of goods within the Free Zone areas.
“The Ghana Free Zones Authority would like to state that it does not condone any illegal acts and will support the Customs Division of the GRA in carrying out its mandate of policing goods entering and exiting Free Zone areas,” the statement read.
The statement added that: “The Authority has taken some measures and steps, including contracting an independent consultancy to audit all licenced duty-free shops and household plastic manufacturing companies found to have violated the Free Zone Act 1995 (ACT504) and its supporting regulations”.
The authority, the statement said, wishes to state unequivocally that Free Zones Enterprises are generally compliant to the Free Zones regulations.
“The Culpability of one Free Zone Company in wrongdoing should not provide justification for condemning the entire Free Zone scheme. The implementation of Free Zones policy has created a significant amount of direct and indirect employment, and has contributed immensely to the economy of Ghana.
“The Authority is therefore urging all its stakeholders to offer the authority the support needed to realise its mission of helping transform Ghana into the Gateway to West Africa.
“The Authority wishes to also assure all law-abiding Free Zones enterprises that the Ghana Free Zones Authority and its stakeholders will continue to create the conducive environment for their businesses to thrive,” the statement said.