The Ministry of Revenue has confiscated a container allegedly smuggled into the country using falsified documents.
This was confirmed by the Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt.
Responding to questions from the Sunday Samoan, he also confirmed that an internal investigation has been launched to determine what happened and how it happened.
The incident occurred last week. The Minister and his Associate Minister, So’oalo Mene, were present when the discovery was made.
According to the Minister, the container belongs to a businessman running a furniture store. He was not at liberty to divulge the identity of the man.
“The red flag arose with the increasing number of containers that had been imported,” he said. “Usually this company brings in two containers but this time it had increased to five.
“The manifest indicated the items in the container were furniture but we found out they were not. All five containers were released under the Custom’s Green Lane List.”
When the Ministry became suspicious, they demanded further information.
“They were never provided by the local business and then we had to step in and to confiscate the containers.
“By the time we got to the containers there was only one left and we took 2,300 soda cases. We confiscated the shipment from a Chinese Store.
“I don’t know what is the connection between the Chinese store and the business man, but we will find out as the Customs are doing and investigation.”
According to Tialavea, the internal investigation will determine if there was collusion in the matter. He said the government has zero tolerance for this type of activity.
“One of the containers should have been opened,” he said. “I am not saying we are at fault but the Customs Officers should have opened at least one.
“I don’t understand why that was not done, but I am certain that we will get to the bottom of this.
“We have a huge role to play in terms of revenue collection and if there was any collusion or bypassing tax obligations then someone will lose their job.
“I will not stop there, that person(s) will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
The Minister also pointed out the matter is clear “breach of trust” between the business and the Ministry.
“And this business man has abused the system that was created for the releasing of operation to run smoothly.
“I know we will be highly criticized by this incident for our Green Lane list, but this does not mean we will suspend this system.
“It’s working as the businesses prepay their shipment and the companies get their containers right away.
“This practice is the result of our mutual working relationship with the private sector and this system had been in place long before and we will not change it, due to actions by one business.
“This means the Customs Officers need to more vigilant and more judgmental and they will now conduct more spot checks.
“One things for sure is that this company will be taken off the list and their shipments will be checked all the time.”