Customs Director General Chulananda Perera yesterday refuted the recent media reports that there had been political force interferes in his duty.
Certain media reported that containers of imported goods are cleared without proper scanning due to political influences.
Perera describing the prevailing controversy over three vehicles imported illegally to the country said, “The controversial container with regard to this incident was inspected in the RTF Division of the Customs Department. This division is directly supervised by the Customs Director General. I have instructed random inspections to be carried out. This container was also inspected under such instructions.
When my officers seized this particular container for inspection, an officer attached to the company which imported this TEU met me. He said that certain vital machinery in the container could get damaged when they are unloaded at the RTF. Therefore, he sought my permission to transport the particular container to his company’s private container yard in Thihagoda Matara.”
The importer had claimed that there were modern facilities in his compan’s container yard than that of the RFT to unload the machinery safely. He also had welcomed any inspection group from the Customs to check the unloading at his company’s private container yard.
“As government servants and, as a department, the customers’ requests should be considered if they have not committed any offence in the past. Accordingly, we discussed the matter with the director general in charge of that division and decided to check the goods in this particular company’s private container yard in Thihagoda,” Perera said.
The container was opened in the presence of two Deputy Customs Superintendents, one Assistant Customs Superintendent, the importer of the container and the Wharf Clerk on May 14, 2016. Having opened the container three vehicles were discovered in the container – a Montero Jeep, Mini Cooper motor car and another Toyota motor car.
“Therefore we decided to impose the maximum penalty on him. Not only that the notorious importer was fined Rs.65.2 million, he was also brought to book. He is now in remand.”
The controversial container was brought back to the Customs’ inspection division at the Orugodawatta container yard. The importation of the three vehicles to Sri Lanka has been prohibited.
“We have taken steps to confiscate all the vehicles and other goods that were in that container,” Perera said.
“We took all these decisions after discussing the matter with our officers. No political influence whatsoever interfered this process. As government servants, we are embarrassed when newspapers publish such reports without checking their facts with the respective sources. At the same time, the political authority too is embarrassed. Therefore, please publish the actual facts and correct the mistakes reported previously,” he appealed.
It was stated that the Customs Department currently has facilities to inspect only 5 percent of the container loads. It has two very old inspection machines.
However, Perera said they had already called tenders to install new machines under the project to establish a modern scanning machine project. He was optimistic that that they would be able to obtain the service of such machines before the end of this year.