The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) is to embark on a nationwide operation to impound uncustomed vehicles.
Dubbed the “Anti-car smuggling operation”, the exercise, which is expected to begin next week, will see the deployment of Customs officials to garages, some major roads and the various Customs checkpoints throughout the country to seize vehicles that were illegally imported into the country.
In an interview in Accra last Tuesday, the Head of the Public Education and Media Relations Unit at the GRA, Mr Johnson Yankey, said it was unlawful to own a vehicle without the payment of appropriate import duties on it.
A total of 754 vehicles believed to have been smuggled into Ghana from neighbouring countries were impounded between January and December 2017.
Mr Yankey said out of the number, 249 vehicles were confiscated in the Ashanti Region, considered a hot spot for smuggled vehicles, while 184 were seized in the Greater Accra Region.
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Most of the vehicles, according to him, had Ghanaian vehicle registration numbers.
He said the smuggled vehicles were mostly used by their owners on weekends for funerals, weddings and other social activities.
Abuse of protocol
According to Mr Yankey, intelligence gathered by the Customs Division of the GRA indicated that most of those vehicles were being brought into Ghana by road from West African countries under an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol.
Under the ECOWAS Protocol, to which Ghana is a signatory, citizens of member countries of the sub-regional body are permitted to temporarily cross over to other countries in the sub-region with vehicles for temporary use for a period of two weeks, which could be extended to 90 days.
On arrival in a member country, the vehicle must be registered with the Customs Division.
“But we have realised that the ECOWAS Protocol is being abused. People drive their vehicles into Ghana particularly from Togo where there is a free port in Lome. They then deceive Customs officers at Aflao that they are coming for medical check-up at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital or for repairs,” he said.
Mr Yankey advised owners or importers of such vehicles to ensure that they contacted the Customs Division to regularise the status of such vehicles before they could be used in Ghana under what is known as ‘home consumption’.
“If, after 90 days, an ECOWAS national is seen in Ghana still using such a vehicle, he is made to pay a penalty or a Customs officer is assigned to escort him or her out of the country. If the user has the intention to use the vehicle in Ghana, we work out the duty and give him or her the necessary documentation to enable him or her to register the vehicle with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA),” he said.
He said the smugglers usually tampered with the chassis numbers of the cars and, therefore, urged potential car buyers to contact the nearest Customs office to verify the tax liability and the authenticity of Customs documents covering the cars.