Used car importers have weighed-in Songwe border crisis where they say the customs and excise department just changes the real prices used to buy cars for the sake of taxing them with higher border duty.
Importers of Used Cars Association says every car that comes to be cleared at Songwe has its price increased by the customs department which a worrisome development to all entrepreneurs in the sector.
The outcry is coming just a few weeks after 9 clearing agents and 1 importer were arrested for allegedly forging invoices to fraudulently clear motor vehicles at the Karonga border crossing.
Tax collector Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) says the arrested customs clearing agents are suspected to have connived with some importers and some customs officers to use false invoices with the aim of paying to government less duty than what was payable.
But the move has opened an ill-fated pandora box where the agents have been complaining bitterly that Customs department must also arrest and publicize details of their own officers involved in the alleged scam.
The confrontation has now dragged-in other businesses involved with the border crossing. President of the Importers of Used Cars Association Henry Nyirenda says it is strange that every import of a vehicle at Songwe attracts a query and ends in an upliftment of prices despite the fact that all documents are presented to Customs.
“Customs has all the powers to verify the cars documents presented to them with companies where we buy the vehicles from and even cross-check with their colleagues in banks about the actual amounts we pay for these vehicles. But not at Songwe, this is not happening. They are just imposing queries and prices from their heads and our businesses are now squeezed to death,” Nyirenda says.
The association has since written MRA to address their concerns in a letter signed by the president and secretary Francis Mpemba dated 11th May 2020. Nyasa Times has a copy.
In their statement announcing the arrests of agents, customs department’s Director of Tax Investigations, Steven Kajombo, said: “In pursuit of our mandate to counteract fraud, we have put a strong investigation, ICT and legal team using latest technology to swiftly and effectively detect and bring to book any such fraudsters and any person who aided such illegal transaction.”
He quotes the Customs and Excise Act, stating that it is an offence for an importer, an agent or owner of the goods being imported to use or attempt to use documents or invoices that have been forged, falsified or framed so as to deceive the authority.