A large-scale vehicle racket involving millions of rupees in unpaid import duty has come to light with the use of ‘Carnet’ permits issued to foreigners, dual citizenship holders and tourists who regularly travel abroad with permission to keep the vehicle with them for one year in Sri Lanka.
The vehicles brought to the country under this system are not subject to any customs duty or other tariffs.
They also need not be registered in Sri Lanka and the vehicle can travel in the country with a foreign number plate, a customs department official said yesterday. ‘Carnet’ permits are issued to foreigners who travel abroad allowing them to take their vehicles with them to the required destination and use it for a year in that particular country.
RMV sources said they had received information that several expensive ultra-luxury vehicles with foreign number plates, mostly EU number plates travelling on the roads of Colombo and elsewhere have increased in the past two years. Customs sources said many Sri Lankan with dual citizenship had been using this system to import luxury vehicles to the country with no duty at all.
The Customs said it had detected this racket in recent times as they have received information that some of these permit holders had registered their vehicles with the RMV as well. “We are investigating these reports.
These holders are not required to pay duty and other Customs fees,” a Deputy Director of Customs said. “The Carnet permit is valid for only one year and after that they have to take the vehicle back to their country where the permit was first issued. If not the vehicles can be seized by Customs and confiscated. However we have information that some of the vehicles have been registered with the RMV after the lapse of the one year period,” he said.
The official said the Customs was taking the issue seriously as the number of such vehicles ranging from Defenders, Mercedes Benz Jeeps, Nissan Terranos’ and GM Jeeps plying in the roads with foreign number plates had increased in the past two or three years. A Motor Traffic Department spokesman said, in Sri Lanka these vehicles were brought down by tourists during the past 10-15 years but now much more vehicles are in the roads which have been brought down by locals who are dual citizen holders.
These permit holders have been lobbying the government and the Register of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to increase the allowed one year to two or three years. He also said that the system of awarding permits
was introduced to expand tourism in all parts of the world. (Supun Dias)