The Fiji Revenue and Customs is concerned with the number of fishing vessels that continue to smuggle highly taxed goods such as alcohol and cigarettes as well as
currencies into the country.
Last calendar year, Revenue and Customs rummaged (searched) 68 fishing vessels berthed at the Suva Harbour. The rummage exercise was conducted after Customs Officers had profiled the vessels for a number of reasons and considered that they may be a high border risk or may be breaching legislative requirements.
“Through these 68 rummages, a number of irregularities including undeclared alcohol and cigarettes (which attract high tax rates) were discovered.
The teams also found undeclared currencies, environmentally damaging gas which is banned in Fiji and most surprisingly 8 live puppies. In fact, 26 of the 68 searches resulted in an anomaly being detected,” Chief Executive Officer Mr. Visvanath Das said.
“In the 57 rummages that were carried out on fishing vessels from January 2018, 10 anomalies were discovered. These detections included high volumes of undeclared cigarettes and alcohol as well as other dutiable items. During one of the rummages in February, Customs Officers also recovered more than 105,000 litres of excess fuel, which was undeclared. Total duty collected during this rummage alone was more than $34,000,” Mr. Das stressed.
Those found guilty of this offence is liable to a fine of $25,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or both under section 137 of the Customs Act.
“Increases in the volume of arriving vessels, aircraft, passengers and cargo has increased the workload of Customs officers worldwide and at the same time increased the potential threat for smuggling and trafficking of illicit items across borders. Fiji’s intelligence, surveillance and monitoring systems are continually evolving to ensure that we are in a good position to identify and address any problems, or risks that may arise at the border.”
“Searching of targeted vessels entering the country or berthed at ports as well as aircraft at airports is an effective and deterrent method to identify and prevent attempts to smuggle prohibited or restricted goods into, or out of the country,” the CEO added.
We continuously work with other agencies to make our borders safe. This year we have signed a Fiji Country Plan with the New Zealand Customs Service to improve border management in Fiji.
Improved border management will contribute to economic growth-including the facilitation of legitimate trade and travel as well as improved border security. The plan will not only benefit Fiji but neighboring countries as well. The technical assistance NZ Customs provides, will assist to enhance capacity and competency to clamp down risks that pose a threat at our borders.
Furthermore, recently the Revenue and Customs along with 24 other World Customs Organisation (WCO) Member Countries made a commitment to adopt international standards and to share best practices. This will bring consistency with approaches to international trade along with increased ability to protect our borders.
This collaborative approach will not only help curb criminal activities but also enhance investment and trade for economic prosperity.