The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Revenue, Matafeo Avalisa Viali-Fautua’alii, has explained their position in relation to a helicopter that has been in their possession since 2016. Below is the letter she wrote in response to questions from the Samoa Observer. It is published in full:
18th September 2018
RE: HELICOPTER VH-VWA
1. I refer to the above matter and to an email dated 17th September 2018 by Ivamere Nataro requesting our responses to certain questions regarding Helicopter VH-VWA.
2. Accordingly, my responses to questions asked are set out below.
Will the auction of the helicopter still go ahead, despite an Australian company claiming ownership of the said helicopter?
3. At the moment, the auction has been put on hold to allow anyone who claims or is claiming to have an interest in the seized helicopter (such as the Australian company) to write to the Comptroller (CEO of the Ministry for Revenue) to reconsider her decision in seizing the helicopter that was done pursuant to section 268 of the Customs Act 20l4 (“the Act”). This is required under section 274 of the
Act. Accordingly, a Public Notice was sent to Samoa Observer to publish in its newspaper informing the general public about this deferred Auction. What this means is that the Ministry will give anyone who has interest in the helicopter including the original Australian owners the opportunity to submit their written position regarding the seized helicopter within the requirements of section 274 of the
Act. Once we receive an application for reconsideration, our Ministry will then assess the application as per sections 275, 276, 277 and 278 of the Act. The timeframe for written application for reconsideration is 5th October 2018. If the Comptroller does not receive any application within this set timeframe, then the original intended auction will proceed under section 283 of the Act, which will mean a new Public Notice will be sent out advising the public of the new time and date of the auction. So, to answer your question, if the Australian company does not submit a written application for reconsideration under section 274 of the Act within 5th October 2018, the Ministry will proceed with the auction as Government has a legal right to seize and sold of the helicopter given it is an uncustomed goods under sections 267(1)(a)(viii) and 283 of the Act.
4. Further, according to registration documents, the Australian company traded in Samoa for the operation of the helicopter as Samoa Helicopters Limited; as such, the Ministry has already contacted the lawyer on record for Samoa Helicopters Limited informing them of the seized helicopter and inviting them to submit their position for reconsideration of seizure no later than 5th Oct 201 8. Failure of which will lead to the Comptroller disposing of the helicopter under section 283 of the Act.
Citing the public notice in today’s paper, the Australian company claims they have the helicopter’s log book and service manuals and without them the helicopter is rendered unable to fly. What can the Ministry say about that? Is this true?
5. Our Ministry’s background research into this matter shows that the absence of log books and service manual does not render the helicopter unusable. Not having the log books and service manual would only affect the value of the helicopter.
Is the Ministry in any negotiation process with the Australian company or are there plans to have the negotiations?
6. No negotiations.
How long has the helicopter been in the Ministry’s possession?
7. Since September 2016 but stored at PFL premises pursuant to section 19(2) of the Customs Act 2014, given the lack of proper facilities at Customs Services Headquarters at Matautu-tai to store the helicopter.
The public notice in today’s paper states that repeated attempts by the Australian company to get comments from the Ministry have been ignored. Why is this?
8. For the record, there were never any repeated attempts by the Australian company to get comments from the Ministry regarding the helicopter. In fact, there was a letter from the Chief Executive Officer to Mr. Michael van der Zypp dated 1st September 2016 in which Mr. Zypp requested re-export of the helicopter back to Australia. In response to this request, the Chief Executive Officer advised that the helicopter can only be re-exported after settlement in full of the import GST that is due to the State(amongst others).
9. In fact, there was communication between the Ministry and the lawyer for Samoa Helicopters Ltd,
Mr. Travis Lamb, dated 27 April 20I7 in which the Ministry advised inter alia that even if proof was presented confirming the true owner of the helicopter, this does not remove the fact that import GST is owing on the helicopter, and section 102(2) of the Customs Act 2014 clearly provides that the duty is owed by the importer of the goods. An importer here includes amongst others the consignee of the goods; the consignee on the import entry is Samoa Helicopters Ltd. As such, until and unless the import GST payable on the helicopter is paid in full, the Comptroller has a right to the helicopter as per section 114 and has the power to seize and detain it as an uncustomed good under subsection
267(1)(a)(viii) of the Customs Act 2018.
Will the Ministry be releasing the helicopter soon?
11. I trust my responses to queries raised helps clarify the Ministry’s position concerning the helicopter. For any future questions pertaining to these matters, please direct them to our media officer, Mr. Jerry Leleimalefaga.
Matafeo Avalisa Viali-Fautua’alii
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
MINISTRY OF REVENUE