Massive racket: Customs detain 400 luxury vehicles
By Chris Kamalendran
June 29, 2014

Some 400 luxury vehicles have been detained by the Customs after revelations that they were undervalued and classed as used vehicles, depriving the State of revenue to the tune of more than Rs. 1.5 billion.

Documents relating to these imports were handed over last Tuesday to Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera by the Customs Preventive Divisionís Assistant Superintendent Sanath Fernando.

A senior Customs official who did not wish to be identified cited an example. A seven-seater Land Cruiser Invincible Diesel Station Wagon worth Rs. 30 million at duty free prices has been declared as worth only Rs. 3.9 million. This was on the grounds that it was a used vehicle. However, the official said that all 400 vehicles that had been detained were brand new and had run less than 100 kilometres.

The official said the vehicles detained had been shipped from Japan, the country of manufacture, to Britain first. Thereafter, they had been transhipped to Colombo thus making out a false case that the vehicles were used. Thus, claims were made for an 80 per cent tax waiver.

The Customs Revenue Task Force has asked the Treasury to re-examine the value. Such valuations are now being carried out by a committee comprising two officials from the Treasury and three from the Customs. Customs officials said the 400 vehicles had been imported on permits issued to State sector officials. The Government has allowed such permits to be sold in the open-market prompting unscrupulous importers to cash in. In the light of this, the Revenue Task Force has recommended that the issue of duty free permits be reviewed.

Though duty is exempted on the import of cars up to a maximum value of US dollars 25,000, Customs officials said, undervaluing imports helped racketeers to bring vehicles far in excess of the value in the permit.

R. Semasinghe, Director General of Trade and Investment in the Ministry of Finance said the 400 vehicles were still at the Customs but declined to divulge details.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka

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