Customs mulls criminal action in $3m fraud scandal

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By Carl Joseph

The broker alleged to have begun defrauding the Customs and Excise Division over two and a half years ago may be facing criminal litigation as soon as next month.

Comptroller of Customs and Excise Raju Boddu held a press conference on Wednesday to provide a review of his department’s year in 2019.

Boddu used the opportunity to provide an update on investigations into the $3.2 million fraud scandal alleged to have been done through unpaid port costs. Revelations as to the alleged fraud were made public last October by Cabinet.

The broker accused of a great majority of the fraud has been involved in civil litigation after a suit was brought against him by one of his clients.

“When we made the case, we issued notices to the affected importers because that was our first priority,” the comptroller explained.

Boddu said that all of the broker’s clients claimed that they had paid all port taxes as presented to them and provided subsequent invoices and payment documents to substantiate their claims.

“There were some exemptions filed that were not there that were wrongly claimed for,” said Boddu.

The comptroller said it was at that point that the importers became aware that they were being “short-changed by their brokers”. As such, one of the broker’s clients filed suit and the high court judge ordered that all six of his bank accounts be frozen for the duration of the trial.

During the course of the investigation Boddu said, “You would not believe the amount of documentation that we turned out… My team was spending sleepless nights, since February, digging out the papers, going to different people asking for evidence so that when we made the case, we would not look like fools.”

The judge declared that the court be closed. As such, the details as to the parties cannot be released.

The final hearing is said to be in February and members of the customs department have been cooperating fully with the courts in the provision of its findings through an investigation which began in February 2019.

“When that case is over, we reserve the right to file criminal charges against the broker,” Boddu announced.

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