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.. Courts causing us to lose millions in revenue - Reese

Published:Thursday | August 4, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The notoriety of Jamaica's slow-paced court system could be contributing to the State, through the Jamaica Customs Agency, losing hundreds of millions of dollars in cases involving persons accused of underinvoicing imports, Commissioner of Customs Major Richard Reese says.

While the full value of breaches during the first quarter of this financial year (April to June) amounted to about $23 million, about one per cent of non-tax revenue for the period, the Jamaica Customs Agency, up to last month, raked in more than $300 million from importers who declared to Customs prices for cargo that were less than they actually paid (underinvoicing).

Director of Cargo Imaging Kingsley Henry admitted that the issue remains a major problem for the government agency for which Finance Minister Audley Shaw wants to increase revenue by between 20 and 40 per cent.




After determining the true cost of cargo through a revaluation process, one of the first options available to the Customs agency in prosecuting breaches is the application of certain penalties and fines to recover the full duties.

Goods can also be seized or auctioned.

However, in cases where the courts become involved if people choose to contest the allegations, the Customs agency stands to lose revenue as cases take a long time to be settled.

"There is a challenge with the court system," Reese told The Gleaner.

"There is a case dating back to 2010, where uncustomed goods were found and the police charged the persons, and that matter is still in court. One has to also determine, in terms of expediency, the actions that you take based on the powers that you have."

The Government has announced several strategies, including the hiring of retired judges and prosecutors and building new spaces, to cut the 400,000 cases in backlog that have clogged the system.

For the quarter under review, the Jamaica Customs Agency recorded approximately 230 breaches, ranging from unauthorised interference with cargo to false declaration of goods and importation without required permits.

The revenues collected from fines and forfeiture, Reese said, amounted to $22.7 million.

The agency realised a net revenue for the April to June quarter of $44.1 billion, surpassing its target of $42 billion by almost five per cent, Reese disclosed.