Strict customs inspections impose on goods amid law violation of smugglers

As smugglers try to carry prohibited goods into Vietnam, the General Department of Customs (GDC) said that risks in transit services continue to exist.
May 28, 2021 | 23:35
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According to Vietnamnet, isn late 2020, the Lang Son province Association of Vietnam-ASEAN Transit Goods Traders sent a dispatch to the Government and relevant ministries complaining about the administrative fines imposed by the border gate customs agency, which caused serious damages to businesses.

According to the association, since July 2018, the customs agency has been inspecting all shipments in transit.

The inspection is carried out immediately after enterprises receive goods from the transport vehicles of foreign goods owners, under seal, in the area supervised by border gate customs and witnessed and supervised by customs officers.

One inspection found only a few violations in many consignments of goods, mostly violations regarding the names and the volume of goods. In some cases, the transit goods were found with counterfeited trademarks.

Strict customs inspections to impose on goods amid law violation of smugglers
Photo: Vietnamnet.

Enterprises have proposed that the Government and relevant agencies exempt goods under seal from inspection. They said the inspection needs to be implemented only when there is clear evidence of violations of the laws.

However, the Ministry of Finance (MOF), in its report to the Prime Minister some days ago, said there are 129 transit trade companies with tens of thousands of containers of goods from China transiting in Vietnam before going to Laos and Cambodia a year.

The goods are mostly consumer goods, electronics, refrigeration engineering, electronic parts, automobile parts and garments.

In Lang Son and HCM City, customs declarations are made for 100-150 containers of transit goods to Cambodia and Laos via land border gates in Tay Ninh, Binh Phuoc, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, An Giang, Dong Thap, Kien Giang and Long An each day.

The General Department of Customs said there are high risks in transit trade as prohibited goods and goods committing intellectual property infringement may be carried through Vietnamese territory, and may be bought in Vietnam instead of going to the target markets as declared.

The agency pointed out that these type of goods are displayed for sale in the open air, which are partially sourced from transit trade.

Strict customs inspections to impose on goods amid law violation of smugglers
Workers wear masks as they unload goods from containers at Ma Lù Thàng border gate in the northern mountainous province of Sơn La. VNA/VNS Photo Việt Hoàng.

In recent years, the situation of smuggling and illegal cross-border transportation, trade fraud, and tax evasion has been complicated. Organizations and individuals take advantage of not having to declare information in advance to gather goods at land border and waiting for illegal transportation and smuggling into the inland; import of trademark counterfeiting goods, infringement of intellectual property rights; import of goods which fail to make declaration in terms of types, quantity, value, and goods banned from import; arbitrarily consuming goods under customs supervision (goods in transit, goods temporarily imported for re-export).

In order to promptly collect and analyze information of the movement of goods and means of transport before arriving at the border gate, to support the customs authority to quickly process customs procedures to facilitate trade and shorten clearance time, and to strengthen the management, customs inspection and customs control, the General Department of Customs recently requested the Local Customs Department to instruct affiliated Customs sub- departments to strictly implement regulations of customs laws, tax laws and related documents, Vietnam Customs reported.

Goods in violation account for 75.8 percent

In April 2020, the General Department of Customs (GDC) told the Anti-smuggling and Investigation Department to inspect transit goods which come to Vietnam from other countries for re-export to Laos and Cambodia and vice versa.

Strict customs inspections to impose on goods amid law violation of smugglers
Ivory was seized by Hai Phong Customs in the peak period of Tet holiday 2020. Photo: T.Bình

As reported by Tien Phong News, GDC inspected four out of 129 enterprises, namely Son Ha Co Ltd, Bach Viet Lang Son Co Ltd, XNK Trade and Services Co Ltd, and Cross Border Trans JSC.

From July 13 to July 21, customs agencies inspected 132 containers of goods out of 647 containers (20 percent) and discovered 91 of 132 containers violating the laws (75.8 percent). These included 35 containers with goods counterfeiting well-known brands, and 56 containers with no declarations or with wrong declarations.

GDC emphasized that while the inspection rate was just 20 percent, the violation rate was 75.8 percent, and that counterfeited goods accounted for 38.5 percent.

The four inspected companies had violated the law in 2017-2019. They were punished for violating the laws on customs and counterfeit goods.

Citing the figures, the finance ministry emphasized that the inspection by GDC was in accordance with the laws.

Strict customs inspections to impose on goods amid law violation of smugglers
Customs officials of Binh Hiep Customs Branch checked imported goods. Photo: T.D.

However, it is difficult to handle violations. Some enterprises have appealed the punishments for the violations, saying that the punishment needs to be imposed on transit goods owners, not on enterprises that provide transit services.

GDC also said that it is difficult to examine goods. The finance ministry said that GDC should use IT, modern equipment and automatic goods classification. The classification is now made manually, which has faced complaints from enterprises.

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