RRA, smugglers in ‘cat and mouse’ game

As Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) steps up the crackdown on illicit trade, smuggling techniques are also becoming increasingly sophisticated.

As Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) steps up the crackdown on illicit trade, smuggling techniques are also becoming increasingly sophisticated.

The smugglers are doing everything at their disposal to make sure they beat the anti-smuggling surveillance team, both at entry points and inland.

Vehicles are partitioned to conceal goods. Packets of cigarettes are put in jericans while a number use routes not managed by customs officials.

This means large-scale smuggling of key sensitive goods, such as automobiles, motorcycles, finished oil products, cigarettes and light-sensitive materials could be on the increase.

RRA however says the many cases are a sign the anti-smuggling unit is on ground and its capacity to contain the trade is growing.

"The impounding of the goods means the Revenue Protection Service is on ground.

The public is tipping us. As they tip us we investigate and impound the goods,"

Seth Muhirwa Director Revenue Protection Services, the anti smuggling unit of RRA said in a recent interview.

Data from RRA legal department suggests that the crackdown has led the tax body and police to prosecute 70 traders over the last five years.

Whereas 4 people were prosecuted in 2004 in connection with smuggling, 34 were charged last year.

Several tonnes of rice have been impounded in the country. The rice soon to be auctioned is stored in Rusomo.

"We mostly ask for receipts if the trader does not produce any we confiscate the rice and if he fails to clear the taxes within three months we auction the items," Muhirwa said.

RPS has also impounded several vehicles. They include Mercedes Benzs, and Toyotas.

Last Saturday, 20 vehicles were auctioned. Most of these cars were declared as on transit at customs. But after crossing the border, the illicit traders forged Rwandan number plates for the vehicles.

"When we crosschecked the chassis number and the log book, they were totally different from the number plate," Muhirwa said.

Reforms

Riled by such cases, the tax body Friday last week met the business community calling upon to them to be tax complaint.

To make them complaint RRA announced that they have a prepayment system where businessmen or their agents can open up a customs clearing bank account.

The account is to facilitate them to clear goods from customs offices without logging in their declarations. With the facility, goods can be cleared before arrival.

Some of the advantages cited include reduced storage costs, importers will have more time to prepare correct declarations and taxpayers will so be allowed to use fax documents.

Ends

 

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