The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority has stepped up efforts to sanitise the freight forwarding business by revoking the licences of 11 more companies and blocking three others from operating for allegedly engaging in trade malpractices.
It has also forwarded the names of some of the companies to the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) for further investigations and prosecutions.
According to the Customs Division documents, copies of which were made available to the Daily Graphic, the alleged trade malpractices included rerouting of imports back into the country for home consumption, thereby denying the state the relevant duties.
The goods involved had a combined value of $4.4 million and the alleged malpractices were perpetrated in 2016 and 2017, according to the documents.
The documents listed the affected companies as Africdream Limited, Blessed Yako Company, Danaya Transit Limited, SDF Import and Export, Hangola Ghana, SSTTLES Village, Baat Company and Soka Shipping.
The rest are 2CS Shipping, FEHX Water, SDF Import and Export, Hendrick Shipping Company Limited, Springfield Shipping Co. Ltd and Christerl Shipping Company Limited.
The documents further alleged that the malpractices by three of the companies – Hendrick Shipping Company Limited, Springfield Shipping Co. Ltd and Christerl Shipping Company Limited – were valued at $3.5 million.
A source at the Customs Division of the GRA told the Daily Graphic that the division “will go after the importers to recover the duties”.
“The first thing is to block the companies. When we do that, the directors will come forward and they will assist us to recoup the money,” the source said.
On the companies whose licences were yet to be revoked, the source explained that Customs would take a decision after the EOCO had completed its investigations.
The documents listed the alleged beneficiary importers as Asebi Boakye, Ama Konadu, Yvonne Opoku, Emmanuel Boakye Yeboah, Badu Agyemang, Joseph Marfo, Kwasi Kyei and Florence Ampofo as individual importers.
It also listed Charles Agyekum Asbest, Silver Rising Ghana Limited, Jenfex Open Ventures Ghana Limited, Divine Impex Limited, Fampof Enterprise, HE Pan, Punjab Company Limited, Fexdon Company Limited and Jagne Kunda Limited as the institutional importers.
The action on the latest 14 freight forwarder companies brings to 20 the number of freight forwarding firms whose licences have either been revoked or blocked in less than a month.
The actions are part of a new crackdown on trade malpractices aimed at ensuring that all institutions pay the relevant duties to the state.
In October, the licences of six forwarders were revoked for allegedly engaging in similar malpractices that cost the state some $384,754.83.
The affected companies – Nasowah Enterprise, Abacus Digital Media Limited, Wayglow Enterprise, Fantega Company Limited, Too Smatt Enterprise and Dovis Clearing House Limited – were accused of either under-invoicing, under-declaring and/or rerouting imports back to the country for home consumption.
It is believed that the crackdown will help plug the loopholes around port clearance which lead to the loss of revenue and partly accounts for the inability of the Customs Division to meet its revenue targets.
In 2016, the Customs Division collected GH¢10.3 billion, about 4.6 per cent lower than its target of GH¢10.8 billion.
Last year, the division again missed its target by nine per cent, having realised GH¢12.7 billion, compared to the target of GH¢13.9 billion.
The President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIIF), Mr Kwabena Ofosu-Appiah, told the paper in a separate interview that some of the affected companies were not freight forwarders but customs house agents that had been misconstrued as forwarder companies.
“If this is the course of action that they want to take, then they must be thorough; they must not make it look like they are victimising people or being selective,” Mr Ofosu-Appiah said.
He explained that contrary to the impression being created, the Customs Division of the GRA was not responsible for licensing freight forwarders and wondered how the division could revoke the licences of some freight forwarders.
He, however, explained that customs houses agents, which were licensed by the division, sometimes ventured into the forwarding business.