Importer fined 25k and had to repay 66k for misclassification of high-end alcoholic beverages

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

Prime Minister Gaston Browne Cracks Down on Customs Fraud: New Measures Implemented

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has announced a decisive crackdown on customs fraud in Antigua and Barbuda, emphasizing the government’s commitment to safeguarding revenue and combatting illegal activities.

This announcement follows recent incidents involving the misclassification of imported goods, particularly high-end alcoholic beverages.

In a statement addressing the issue on Pointe FM, Prime Minister Browne stated, “What I can tell you is that we certainly are closing down all of the avenues that we know about.”

He highlighted instances of forged signatures on duty waivers by officials and unveiled new measures to prevent such fraudulent practices.

One significant step taken is the introduction of a new electronic form to eliminate signature forgery and manipulation, ensuring that only the Finance Minister can preside over duty waivers.

“And we have also about to introduce a policy that only the Finance Minister will be able to preside over any duty waiver. So, even when I’m not an island, the acting Prime Minister will have no such authority.”

This centralized approach aims to enhance accountability and reduce opportunities for corruption.

Furthermore, the government is implementing stricter checks on imports, especially luxury items like Hennessy and other high-value products that have been misclassified to evade higher tariffs.

Spot checks and thorough inspections will be conducted to deter fraudulent activities and hold offenders accountable.

Prime Minister Browne also provided additional details about the enforcement actions taken against perpetrators of customs fraud.

He mentioned, “We are aware too, but it has been brought to our attention that there’s some businessmen in this country who are bringing in very expensive drinks, the Hennessy and so on and even beers and what they’re doing is that they are misclassifying the goods that they’re bringing.”

“So, for example, they will classify them as hygiene products and pay 15% instead of 45%.”

During his address, Prime Minister Browne revealed that a particular individual was fined $25,000 and required to repay $66,000 in taxes as a consequence of customs fraud.

“We are also thinking about going to parliament as well to make the fines more extensive too. There’s $25,000 when you’re stealing all the $1,000 worth of revenue, that’s like a slap on the wrist.”

He emphasized the seriousness of such actions, stating, “Now what we need to is the cooperation of the general public. They know these people who literally rob in revenue to just give us some little tip-offs and we will let’s say restrict this confidence address these issues.”

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