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Punish Dep. Customs C’ssioner for reducing Labianca’s benchmark values – Corruption Watch

Customs

Punish Dep. Customs C’ssioner for reducing Labianca’s benchmark values – Corruption Watch

Anti-graft group, Corruption Watch Ghana is calling for sanctions against Joseph Adu Kyei, the Deputy Commissioner for Customs in charge of operations, for his role in the reduction in the tax liabilities of Labianca Limited.

Corruption Watch

The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) has accused Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh of influence-peddling for allegedly using her position as a Member of Council of State and Member of the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to get a favourable decision from the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), which led to a reduction in the tax liabilities of Labianca Limited, a company she owns.

The OSP in its investigative report faulted Joseph Adu Kyei, the Deputy Commissioner of Customs in charge of Operations, for issuing what it described as unlawful customs, and advance ruling which reduced the benchmark values of the frozen foods imported by Labianca Limited, thereby reducing the company’s tax obligations to the state

According to the OSP, there is strong evidence to suggest that Kyei’s decision to issue a customs advance ruling for the applicant was procured through influence peddling or trading of influence by Asomah-Hinneh by employing her position as a member of the Council of State and member of the Board of Directors of the GPHA.

Corruption Watch’s reaction

Reacting to the action taken by the OSP in a press statement dated Thursday, August 11, 2022, Corruption Watch said Adu Kyei must be sanctioned regardless of the OSP’s directive for the opening of a wider investigation in the respect of the issuance of customs advance rulings and markdown of benchmark values.

It said “given the circumstances of this case, particularly, the OSP’s determination of influence peddling, we draw attention to Section 179C of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), which makes it an offence for a person to use public office for profit.

We note that the offence is committed by both the person who holds public office who dishonestly abuses the office for private gain or benefit and other persons who collaborate with the public officer to so abuse the office,” it added

It said that sanction must happen to give effect and impetus to the course that the OSP has taken.

Resign or be removed

In addition to that, Corruption Watch is asking that “Buah Asomah-Hinneh must be asked to resign or be removed from her membership of the Council of State and the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority.”

In addition, the fact that Ms. Buah Asomah-Hinneh is a politically exposed person (PEP) underlines the importance that the country must attach to developing a full-fledged, efficient and functioning beneficial ownership disclosure mechanism to assist in tackling corruption and its related state capture by influential persons in society.”

“In the wake of this report, it has been evidently clear that the OSP can become an effective institutional tool for fighting corruption if Government were to release to the Office all funds allocated to it. Therefore, the government must as a matter of urgency, cause the release of funds to the OSP to enable it to undertake its mandate,” it added.

Corruption Watch

Read the full statement

CORRUPTION WATCH COMMENDS THE OFFICE OF SPECIAL PROSECUTOR FOR ACTION TAKEN AGAINST LABIANCA COMPANY LIMITED

Corruption Watch Ghana has taken notice of the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s (OSP) recent report on an investigation into a complaint of corruption and corruption-related offences against Labianca Company Limited and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.

We commend the OSP for recovering an amount of one million, seventy-four thousand, six hundred and twenty-seven cedis, fifteen pesewas (GHC1,074,627.15) through the issuance of an interim directive to Labianca Company Limited, owned by Ms. Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, a member of the
Council of State and a member of the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).

According to the OSP, Labianca Company Limited had evaded the payment of the said amount as a result of the issuance of an unlawful customs advance ruling by Mr. Joseph Adu Kyei, the Deputy Commissioner for Customs in charge of operations.

We note that the OSP’s action fulfils one of its core functions, which is the recovery and management of the proceeds of corruption and corruption-related offences.

Corruption Watch Ghana welcomes the directive for the opening of a wider investigation in respect of the issuance of customs advance rulings and markdown of benchmark values between July 2017 and December 2021.

We further welcome the directive to the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to submit an Integrity Plan designed with the aim of preventing the corruption of the exercise of discretion by officials of the Customs Division by December 31, 2022. We believe that these directives are forward looking.

Given the circumstances of this case, particularly, the OSP’s determination of influence peddling, we draw attention to Section 179C of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), which makes it an offence for a person to use public office for profit.

We note that the offence is committed by both the person who holds public office who dishonestly abuses the office for private gain or benefit and other persons who
collaborate with the public officer to so abuse the office.

Therefore, we believe the following must happen to give effect and impetus to the course that the OSP has taken:

1. Ms. Buah Asomah-Hinneh must be asked to resign or be removed from her membership of the Council of State and the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority.

2. Mr. Joseph Adu Kyei, the Deputy Commissioner for Customs in charge of operations, must be sanctioned regardless of the OSP’s directive for the opening of a wider investigation in the respect of the issuance of customs advance rulings and markdown of benchmark values.

3. In addition, the fact that Ms. Buah Asomah-Hinneh is a politically exposed person (PEP) underlines the importance that the country must attach to developing a full-fledged, efficient and functioning beneficial ownership disclosure mechanism to assist in tackling corruption and its related state capture by influential persons in society.

4. In the wake of this report, it has been evidently clear that the OSP can become an effective institutional tool for fighting corruption if Government were to release to the Office all funds allocated to it.

Therefore, the government must as a matter of urgency, cause the release of funds to the OSP to enable it to undertake its mandate.

Customs

OSP’s corruption report on Labianca flawed -CSA

Meanwhile, the Customs Staff Association (CSA) has described as flawed the investigation conducted by the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) alleging corrupt activities involving Labianca Group of Companies and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), accusing the latter of misconceptions to injure reputation.

In a statement, the Association stated that the report is misconceived and “and same is borne out of the misconception.”

According to the CSA, the Benchmark Values used by the OSP as a method of valuation rather than a risk management tool are inconsistent with the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Rules on Customs Valuation and Section 67 of the Customs Act.

On the back of this, the group is confident that the findings of the OSP in the Labianca case is technically flawed.

“There’s therefore nothing wrong with the approvals made by the Commissioner since such approvals accord with the Customs Laws and established procedures in force,” parts of the statement read.

Earlier this week, the OSP published an investigative report which revealed that Labianca Group of Companies, a frozen foods company owned by a member of the Council of State, Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh had a shortfall in import duties in excess of ¢1.074 million.

The OSP contended that Ms Asomah-Hinneh used her position as a member of the Council of State and member of the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to get a favourable decision from the Customs Division.

The report signed by the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, alleged that Ms Asomah-Hinneh’s influence-peddling led to a reduction in the tax liabilities for her frozen foods company, thus, gaining undue market advantage in the competitive frozen foods industry.

But the Customs Division has refuted the Special Prosecutor’s claim against some of its officials in the case of Labianca Company.

Commissioner of Customs, Col. Kwadwo Damoah (Rtd) who was indicted in the report accused the OSP of malicious intent to solely discredit the Customs officers at an open meeting attended by staff, insisting, he will survive all attempts by hidden hands and self-seeking collaborators to nail him to the cross.

“I will not be in customs forever but don’t disgrace if you want me to go, prosecute me, not needless investigations. I will survive it”, Col. Kwadwo Damoah (Rtd) noted.

Corruption WatchCustoms

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