Confiscated whiskey auctioned
The Ministry of Customs and Revenue is expecting to collect more $200,000 from the public sale of VAT 999-branded whiskey seized in 2013.
The liquor was alleged to have been smuggled into Samoa using false documents and seized.
The Commissioner for Customs and Revenue, Matafeo Avalisa Viali-Fautua’ali’i, told the Samoa Observer during an interview that the contents of two containers were up for public sale at the Ministry's headquarters in Matautu on Saturday.
One container, carrying a consignment of over 900 cartons of led to criminal charges against a Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai, who was acquitted in court for lack of evidence.
The other container was confiscated for trademark violation relating to its use of a red label
“The two containers contained close to 1500 cases of whiskey and the Ministry considered disposing it; however considering the impact it may have on the environment we opted to negate that plan and sell it," the Commissioner said.
“It’s more than 1,500 cases in the containers and given that it’s been stored for more than six years, we found cracked bottles and ones with worn out caps which have been removed.”
The bottles are not intended for commercial reuse: the customs agency will start advertising a picture of the whiskey bottles from next week and will encourage the public to report if they see the bottle on sale.
The Commissioner warned of penalties if those laws were broken.
“The law as it stands; the penalty if convicted in court is fine of up to 1,000 units and its $100 tala per unit that’s equates to $100, 000,” explained Matafeo.
“There is a process for these public sales for accountability and transparency purposes; M.O.F. and [the audit office] will oversee the sale while my staff sees the process is being followed in terms of the sale," the spokeswoman said.
“After picking a number, then you register and then you sign an agreement that you will not sell the product".
A representative of the Ministry of Finance and the Audit Office was present during the public sale.
Matafeo said the whiskey was safe for consumption.
“We took the bottles to the [Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa] for testing and they were still in good condition. We also tested the volume of the alcohol contained in the bottles and originally it was 37 percent, however after testing of three bottles it was uncovered the volume increased to 38.1 percent,” said the Revenue Commissioner.