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Was Comptroller’s vehicle undervalued?

Was Comptroller’s vehicle undervalued?

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Did Comptroller of Customs and Excise Grenville John undervalue, by more than 50 per cent, a vehicle he imported into the country earlier this month?

That is the question that is being asked, after the Silver 2005 Suzuki Escudo was given a CIF value of US$6,500 by Customs officials on February 9.{{more}}

According to those crying foul, John did not present to Customs, an invoice stating how much he had paid suppliers in Japan. They contend that the value of US$6,500, which was arrived at by Customs officers, was far lower than the US$14,886 price tag on another 2005 Suzuki Escudo, described to be in excellent condition, which his accusers sourced on the Internet.

John, however, has dismissed the accusations, saying he got no special favour from the Customs and those persons accusing him of wrongdoing have their agenda.

He said persons within the Customs “mischievously took his entry” and copied and distributed it to members of the business sector and to the media.

John said in every organization there are “bad eggs” and when one tries to deal with the persons who are not in line, they go as far as “concocting stuff.”

“No favours have been granted to me in relation to the importation of the vehicle,” said John, who was granted a 75 per cent waiver of Import Duty, VAT and Excise Duty on the vehicle, in keeping with his grade in the Public Service.

He disclosed that it is not unusual for a used vehicle, such as his, to be cleared on the basis of a bill of sight, rather than an invoice.

“If you have an invoice, it helps and if the invoice is acceptable to Customs, then Customs will accept it; but an invoice is not required for a used vehicle.

“It is not mandatory that you request an invoice or that you get an invoice. I do not have an invoice.

“Some persons request an invoice, as a matter of fact, some suppliers ask you if you want an invoice for Customs. That is why I say it is not mandatory for Customs to accept an invoice for a used vehicle. If you have one, you can present it and the Customs will look at it, in relation to the vehicle that they are seeing in front of them,” he explained.

John said his vehicle was imported with a dent on the left side; a particular which was noted on the Bill of Sight. He claims that after leaving the wharf, the Escudo spent a week having bodywork done at Lewis Auto World. He said the dent on the left side was removed and the undercarriage, roof and trunk door were sprayed. The vehicle was also said to be missing hubcaps.

“That is the condition in which the vehicle was imported.”

In addition to the work that has already been done, John claimed that the vehicle is supposed to return to the garage for additional remedial work.

“Why on earth will Grenville John go and buy a 2005 vehicle, a vehicle which is 10 years old …. and I would pay almost US$15,000 for that vehicle?

“I may be a mad man right?

“Anybody can go on the Internet and pull off these (referring to the pro forma invoice for US$14,886) and wave them. That is how irresponsible people can be in St Vincent and the Grenadines. But the Customs is more responsible than that,” the Comptroller stated.

Curtis Lewis, proprietor of Lewis Auto World, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT yesterday, confirmed that he picked up John’s vehicle at the wharf and did body work on it to treat it for rusting of the undercarriage. He said they also sanded, painted and primed the roof and other parts of the vehicle, which appeared to have hail damage. He also said that the vehicle arrived with a dent on the left side and the centre of the rims missing.

Lewis said in his estimation, that vehicle could attract a CIF value as high as US$8,500, but based on its condition, the importer may have been able to negotiate a good price, taking it down to as low as US$6,500.

Referring to his Bill of Sight, John pointed out that the vehicle he imported was a 2005 Silver Suzuki Escudo, with an engine size of 1995 CCs and mileage of 61,475 km.

By way of comparison, John then showed SEARCHLIGHT three invoices for Suzuki Escudos which had been imported into SVG between August and December 2014 by two members of the public. These invoices were stamped and signed by the Customs Valuation Branch.

The first vehicle, whose year of manufacture was 2006 and which had an engine size of 2700 CCs, had an approved value of US$6,800.

“This vehicle has a bigger engine size than my vehicle, and we all know the bigger engine size vehicles cost more and it is a newer vehicle than my vehicle. The customs accepted a CIF value of US$6,800. My vehicle is valued just $300 less than that. What favour have I received?”

The second vehicle was manufactured in 2005 and also carried a 2700 CC engine. Customs also accepted a CIF value of US$6,800 for that vehicle. The third vehicle, the closest in specification to the one John imported, was a Silver 2005 vehicle with a 2000 CC engine.

For that vehicle, Customs accepted a value of US$5,731.34.

“This vehicle, which is closest to my year, colour and size of engine, is valued almost US$1,000 less than mine by the Customs. Where is the favour that was granted to me?”

He said the officers in the valuation branch have been exposed to specialized training and if a fictitious invoice is presented, it will be discerned and if no invoice is presented, the goods being imported will be valued.

Stating that he is “confident” that he knows who leaked the information, John warned that it is a violation of the Customs laws to disclose information that is not authorized.

“The customs act is clear on that. The fact that someone disclosed information on an importer is a violation of the confidentiality provision of the Customs laws.”

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