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Customs explain

Customs explain The Ministry of Revenue has rejected a report that an ACEO allegedly allowed a vehicle to pass through Customs despite it being more than 10 years old and lacking pertinent paper work.

CEO Pitolau Lusia Sefo-Leau says the report is “misleading.” In a statement issued yesterday, she denies that there was an investigation into the conduct of the ACEO.

She also denies “any allegation of misconduct” in relation to the vehicle prior to the publication of a leaked document by the Samoa Observer.
The document in question is the Vehicle Examination Declaration Form. It shows that a light blue Toyota Tarago was assessed by a Customs Officer, late last year.

The document shows that the vehicle was a 1992 model making it too old to be imported into the country. The leaked form had been altered to show the vehicle as a year 2000 model. The ACEO’s initials are printed next to the alteration.

But Pitolau says the content of the document has culminated in a “one-sided story that taints the reputation of the individuals involved as well as the Ministry itself.
She explains what happened; “The Toyota vehicle that is the subject of the article was inspected by an officer of Customs in accordance with normal procedures.

“In confirming the year of an imported vehicle, especially second-hand vehicles, reliance is placed on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that is found on the engine.
If the VIN is not discernible for any reason, reliance is then placed on an examination of the vehicle’s seatbelts which will also show the year of manufacture.

“In this case, the VIN was not clearly discernible. Thus, the examining customs officer inspected the seatbelts, which showed “1992” as the year. The year 1992 was then written on the examination form. All examination forms are finally checked by the ACEO Border.

“When the ACEO Border was given this particular examination form, she informed the family who had imported the vehicle that it could not be cleared given that it was over the 12-year limit for imported vehicles.

“Because the family insisted that the vehicle was a 2000 model and not 1992, they were given an opportunity to verify this with either an export certificate or a certificate of registration. The family was able to provide a certificate of registration showing the vehicle to be a 2000 model.

“When queried regarding the seatbelts, the family representative explained that the vehicle had undergone regular roadworthiness tests in Australia, the most recent of which required that the seatbelts be replaced due to ordinary wear and tear.

“Thus, the old seatbelts had been replaced with those taken from a 1992 model vehicle.
“Based on this information, the ACEO was reasonably satisfied of the above facts.

“Thus the examination form was altered to show the correct year and the correction initialed. On payment of the applicable import duty, the vehicle was subsequently cleared for release.” Pitolau requested if her press statement could be published unedited. Her request is granted:

PRESS STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY FOR REVENUE
The Ministry for Revenue issues this press statement in relation to an article entitled, “Customs Probe ACEO Conduct” that was published in the Samoa Observer Newspaper on Friday 17 February 2012.
The purpose of this statement is to bring the true circumstances of this matter to light, given that the a

rticle tends to make negative imputations regarding a certain Government official and a private citizen, both of whom are named therein.
The article is misleading, in that it implies that the ACEO Border of the Ministry for Revenue was under investigation at the time that the article went to press for unlawful conduct. This is incorrect.
No investigation into the ACEO’s conduct was underway at the time, nor was there any allegation of misconduct until the Samoa Observer published this article implying the wrongful release of a prohibited vehicle from customs control.
It is clear that the content of the article was based entirely on an official document that was provided to the Observer in breach of the Ministry’s code of conduct and rules relating to confidentiality.
The only investigation that has been conducted as a result of this appearing in the newspaper is to identify the official(s) who released the document in question without any authorisation.

The content of this document, together with an unverified explanation from a spiteful, anonymous source and selective reporting on the part of the Samoa Observer, has culminated in a one-sided story that taints the reputation of the individuals involved as well as the Ministry itself.

The correct facts of the matter are as follows:
The Toyota vehicle that is the subject of the article was inspected by an officer of Customs in accordance with normal procedures.

In confirming the year of an imported vehicle, especially second-hand vehicles, reliance is placed on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that is found on the engine. If the VIN is not discernible for any reason, reliance is then placed on an examination of the vehicle’s seatbelts which will also show the year of manufacture.

In this case, the VIN was not clearly discernible. Thus, the examining customs officer inspected the seatbelts, which showed “1992” as the year. The year 1992 was then written on the examination form. All examination forms are finally checked by the ACEO Border.

When the ACEO Border was given this particular examination form, she informed the family who had imported the vehicle that it could not be cleared given that it was over the 12-year limit for imported vehicles.

Because the family insisted that the vehicle was a 2000 model and not 1992, they were given an opportunity to verify this with either an export certificate or a certificate of registration. The family was able to provide a certificate of registration showing the vehicle to be a 2000 model.

When queried regarding the seatbelts, the family representative explained that the vehicle had undergone regular roadworthiness tests in Australia, the most recent of which required that the seatbelts be replaced due to ordinary wear and tear.  Thus, the old seatbelts had been replaced with those taken from a 1992 model vehicle.

Based on this information, the ACEO was reasonably satisfied of the above facts.  Thus the examination form was altered to show the correct year and the correction initialed. On payment of the applicable import duty, the vehicle was subsequently cleared for release.

The Ministry has previously issued Public Notices informing the public that, for all vehicle importations, it is a requirement that importers provide either an export certificate or a registration certificate for customs’ verification purposes.

The Ministry takes this opportunity to apologise to the importer of this vehicle and their family. We regret the way in which a confidential document bearing the name of a private citizen was published.

However, we assure you, and the general public, that the Ministry does not condone any release of confidential information pertaining to specific importers/taxpayers. The Ministry endeavours to discipline perpetrators within our staff to the full extent of its authority.

 

 

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