The Customs and Excise today clarifies issues pertaining to Customs vehicle G 3440. The Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Nathan Kama described various reports on the vehicle in the Solomon Star as erroneous.

Mr. Kama said, "the actions by the Customs Division which led to the forfeiture of the vehicle to the Crown were perfectly within the bounds of the Customs Act and were made following due consultations with relevant authorities, including the Office of the Attorney General."

Mr. Kama said the vehicle was imported into the country in April 2008 by an importer and was declared to Customs as a 'secondhand vehicle' at a value of only SBD $52,000.00.

Mr. Kama said thorough inspection of the vehicle by Customs, however, established that it was brand new and not secondhand as declared. Customs has a number of indicators which they use to determine the true age of the vehicle and the evidence examined in this case supported by the indicators that the vehicle was indeed new.

"With this evidence, Customs further established breaches of the Customs Act which included making a false declaration to Customs and undervaluing imported goods. Customs, therefore, legally detained the vehicle pending the findings of the investigation" said Mr. Kama.

Mr. Kama said that in July 2008, Customs offered to settle the matter out of court pursuant to the Customs Act, in which case the importer was required to pay the duty, tax, and the appropriate penalties by way of compensation in lieu of a proceeding through court.

"The importer did not respond to the offer. A formal seizure notice was therefore served on the importer in December 2008, and offered one month to respond. Failure of the importer to respond within the given period means that any goods lawfully seized shall be deemed condemned and maybe sold or otherwise disposed of in such manner as the Comptroller may direct," Mr. Kama said.

Mr. Kama said, in this instance, the importer did not respond to the seizure notice within the statutory time period and as such the vehicle was forfeited to the Crown for disposal.

Mr. Kama said, the Comptroller, in exercising his power, temporarily allocated the vehicle to the Joint Customs and Inland Revenue Taskforce set up as part of a government initiative to increase revenue collection. The Taskforce used the vehicle to conduct its duties including increasing cargo examinations to identify revenue leakages. The intention was to transfer the vehicle to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development for permanent allocation or disposal.

Mr Kama further said that the other matter relating to the junior officer driving and involved in an accident with the vehicle has been investigated and findings have been forwarded to the Permanent Secretary of Finance & Treasury for appropriate deliberation.

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