The All Ceylon Customs Service Union (ACCSU) plans to petition the Supreme Court over an alleged vehicle fraud amounting to about Rs.1.2 billion.

Speaking on the issue, ACCSU General Secretary J.A. Gunathilake also lamented that neither the Presidential Secretariat nor the Prime Minister’s office had responded to their letters on the alleged fraud being perpetrated by some vehicle importers.
The ACCSU also lodged a complaint with the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) on December 18, regarding an alleged fraud amounting to about Rs.1.262 billion payable as import duty levies on 212 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado TRJ150W vehicles. These vehicles had been imported to the country using duty free vehicle permits given to senior government servants.

The Director General of Customs had directed officials to release the vehicles after recovering additional duties of Rs.1.6 million through Customs declarations. The order had been reportedly issued on instructions from Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake. Customs officially maintains that all vehicles had been imported using concessionary vehicle permits given by the government and most of the consignees were government servants. However, this is disputed by the ACCSU.

Gunathilake noted that duty free vehicle permits are issued under Section 50 of the Customs Ordinance. These permits are not transferable.

“Some close associates of the former UPFA regime were involved in this vehicle fraud. When they were caught in late 2014, a statement was made by the government that it was not illegal to transfer or sell these permits,” the General Secretary said. However, it was never incorporated into law by amending Section 50 of the Customs Ordinance, he asserted.

Gunathilake also pointed out only vehicles below US$35,000 could be imported under these concessionary vehicle permits. “However, importers purchase these vehicles from auctions in Japan for amounts ranging from US$570,000-80,000 and then submit bogus purchase invoices that the vehicles were purchased for below US$35,000. By law, these vehicles should either be confiscated by the State or a fine amounting to three times the value should be imposed,”he opined.

“As such, we hope to challenge the legality of this matter before the Supreme Court,” Gunathilake stated.