Customs crackdown - $7M collected from persons importing motor vehicles without permit
Scores of persons, as well as some established companies, have been trying to import vehicles into Jamaica without the requisite permits.
This has caused the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) to increase its vigilance as it monitors the importation of vehicles and other items.
Since the start of this year, the JCA has recorded 178 cases where persons or entities have imported vehicles without having the requisite permit, leaving them in breach of the law.
The JCA says, so far, it has cleared up 169 of these violations with $7,250,000 in penalties paid over by the importers of motor vehicles. The remaining nine cases are being processed.
"We cite several persons every day for permit breaches, whether it is agricultural produce or pharmaceuticals, and we have computerised it since January," said head of the JCA, Major Richard Reese.
"Vehicles do come in and when they arrive here there is no permits or the person has applied for the permit, but there is no permit at the time when it comes in and then Customs breaches them and there is a penalty that is imposed. If you leave it (vehicle) on the port and it stays for too long then we will auction it, and that is the standard procedure," added Reese.
The JCA boss was responding to questions from The Sunday Gleaner after news surfaced last week that the recently appointed Hyundai distributor for Jamaica, Magna Motors Dealership Limited, might have committed a breach by importing vehicles without the required permit.
Reese declined to comment on the allegation as he argued that the only time information pertaining to importers is made public is when items are to be auctioned.
Magna Motors Dealership Limited, which is a subsidiary of Magna Motors located in the Dominican Republic, currently has in excess of 100 vehicles on the Kingston Wharf.
But sales manager for the company, Carlos Geourzoung, said it is not in breach and hopes to have the vehicles cleared by the end of the month.
"I find it a bit mesmerising why things haven't worked out, but I just work with the system," said Geourzoung. "The vehicles are being stored at the Kingston Wharf, so we are not breached."
Geourzoung said the company's brokers are currently dealing with the matter, as he suspects there might have been some issues with paperwork.
"We have a new broker and a lot of the paperwork is probably not in place or they are not too familiar with the paperwork, I really don't know what it is," Geourzoung said. "I think the hiccups may be because we are used to doing things a certain way and the Jamaican Govern-ment is used to doing something else. We have different cultures, so there is a lot of back-and-forthing and all that."
NEWS YOU CAN USE: Importing a motor vehicle
All importers of vehicles (individual or commercial) are required to have an import permit before the date of report of the shipment.
Once clearance is being effected the importer has to present a licence which they would have obtained from the Trade Board.
If the vehicles arrive before the permit was obtained the importer is found in breach and is required to pay duties, taxes and customs administration fees along with a deposit for possible penalties.
The importer also has the option of writing a letter of explanation and electing to sign a Consent A Form allowing the commissioner of customs to mitigate.
Having done so, the importer would then be able to clear the shipment and the commissioner determines the matter. If the vehicle remains uncleared, however, then it is deemed overtime goods and is put up for public auction.
According to chief executive officer of the Trade Board, Victor Cummings, persons can obtain a licence to import used vehicles which cannot be more than five years old, or six years in the case of SUVs, while there are no restrictions on new vehicles.
"The process is that you apply for the import licence before shipping and that is our standard operating procedure. You are not supposed to land the vehicles without a licence," outlined Cummings. "You fill out the application, pay $6,407.50 per vehicle and you give us all the documents. It can all be done online."