A Ghanaian citizen Mr. Frank Asare has petitioned the Special Prosecutor to investigate La Bianca Company Limited and its subsidiaries operating at the Tema Port.
In his complaint addressed to the SP, Mr. Asare said his investigations have revealed that “products imported by La Bianca company and its subsidiaries are not subjected to approved duties and taxes as be prescribed by law”.
He is also alleging that La Bianca Company Limited, in October 2021, was caught by the Customs Division to have misdescribed goods it had imported into the country with the intention of evading import duties.
“On 20th April, 2021, the Company was granted a 5% to 10% markdown on similar imported products [frozen foods] contrary to the dictates of the law.
Below is the full statement:
16th November 2021
THE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR,
THE OFFICE OF SPECIAL PROSECUTOR,
ATTN: MR. KISSI ADJABENG
COMPLAINT BY: FRANK ASARE
SUBJECT: COMPLAINT AGAINST LA BIANCA COMPANY LIMITED AND ITS SUBSIDIARIES AT THE TEMA PORT FOR THE PERIOD BETWEEN 2017 TO 2021 RELATING TO THE EVASION OF IMPORT DUTIES AND ITS ASSOCIATED REVENUE LOSSES TO THE STATE.
The Complainant is a citizen of Ghana who is committed to ensuring good governance and accountability on the part of state institutions with the aim of optimizing revenue mobilization for national development.
Complainant says that La Bianca Company Limited is a private company limited by shares and incorporated under the laws of the Republic of Ghana. The beneficial owner of La Bianca Company is one Eunice Hinneh who is a member of the governing Board of Ghana Port and Harbor Authority and a member of the Council of State.
Complainant says that, he has observed that La Bianca Company Limited is into the importation of frozen foods into the country for sale. These imported products are supposed to ordinarily be subjected to import duties/levies, fees, taxes and statutory deductions as prescribed by the Law. However, complainant has uncovered through his painstaking investigations that the products imported by La Bianca company and its subsidiaries are not subjected to the approved duties and taxes as be prescribed by law.
Complainant says that it is against this background that he wishes to petition your office to investigate these shady dealings between the Ghana Revenue Authority and La Bianca Company and their subsidiaries pursuant to section 27(1) of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, 2017 (ACT 959).
Particulars of the Complaint;
Complainant says that La Bianca Company Limited purportedly applied to the Commissioner, Custom Division, on 21st October, 2021 for consideration on custom import values for certain products it had imported into the country. Pursuant to the said application, the Deputy Commissioner, Operations, Custom Division, by a letter dated 26th October, 2021 purportedly granted a 10% mark down of the approved benchmark values for imported frozen foods from 26th October, 2021 to 31st December, 2021. Attached and Marked as Exhibit “A” is a copy of the letter granting the said 10% mark down.
In the said letter, the Deputy Commissioner, Operations, Custom Division, cited section 12 of the Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) as the basis of the discount of the 10% markdown he granted the company.
Complainant says that Section 12 of the Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) deals with the subject matter of “Advance Ruling” and does not support the grant of 10% mark down given to the company by customs given the nature and content of the application in issue.
Complainant says that “Advance Ruling” as provided under by Section 12 of the Custom Act, 2015 (Act 891) is a pre-shipment application to determine how Custom deals with intended import as it relates to classification, valuation or determination of origin.
Complainant further says that “advance ruling” is only made on the basis of a specific transaction or intended import bill.
Complainant says that, “advance ruling” as provided by Section 12, Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) cannot be granted for a period of time without reference to any specific transaction or import bill.
Complainant avers that per sub section 6 and 7 of section 12 of the Customs Act, 2015, the grant of a 10% markdown must comply with the following;
(a) a complete description of the merchandise including
(i) the packing weight,
(ii) the chemical analysis,
(iii) the description of the goods,
(iv) the production and expiration date,
(v) the name and brand of the goods,
(vi) the physical description,
(vii) function of the goods,
(ix) composition of the goods, and
(x) characteristics of components;
(b) the commercial or technical designation of the goods; and
(c) where the goods consist of more than one material, the composition of the goods by weight, volume and value of each component.
- Complainant says that a request for a customs ruling in relation to valuation of goods for customs purposes shall include in addition to the requirement above;
(a) the information required on an invoice;
(b) the terms of traden including Free On Board, Cost Insurance Freight; and
(c) a description of any relationship between the parties.
- Complainant says that grant of the 10% markdown on legally prescribed benchmark values to the La Bianca was done arbitrarily and not in accordance with the provision of the laws stated above.
- Complainant avers that, per international best practices and that of the Ghana Revenue Authority, an advance ruling is given in accordance with the following processes;
An interested party must have submitted an application to Commissioner, Customs Division indicating the intention to import a particular product with reference to a particular set of trade documents including a proforma invoice etc.
The said application must indicate the assessment to be made by Custom whether for classification, valuation or determination of origin.
On receipt of the said application, Customs is obliged to conduct an investigation into the application to determine request made by the interested party
Generally, these investigations must involve a communication to the exporting country by way of background check on the application to establish any fact which could help to make the determination requested by the interested party.
After the conclusion of the determination, a letter is written and circulated to all import stations under customs territory indicating the determination that has been made and directing all stations to admit the goods on the basis of the said determination.
Complainant says that grant of the 10% markdown on legally prescribed benchmark values to the La Bianca was done arbitrarily with this known process.
Complainant says that the grant of the 10% mark down is illegal as same is contrary to section 12 of the Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) and the long-standing practices of the Ghana Revenue Authority.
Complainant says that the approved 10% mark down to La Bianca Company Limited was done in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner with intent to unduly favour La Bianca Company Limited over its business competitors.
Complainant says that the beneficial owner of the company enjoys this arbitrary mark down because of her position of influence as a member of the governing board of Ghana Port and Harbour Authority and a member of the Council of State.
Complainant says that this is not the first time La Bianaca Company Limited has been granted an illegal mark down on imported frozen products. On 20th April, 2021, the Company was granted a 5% to 10% markdown on similar imported products contrary to the dictates of the law.
The complainant says that the La Bianca Company Limited sometime in October 2021 was caught by the Custom Division to have misdescribed goods it had imported into the country with the intention of evading import duties and that ordinarily when a company is caught to have misdescribed imported goods, the comapny is made to pay a penalty of 300% of the duty payable. However, the beneficial owner of Labianca company, Eunice Hinneh, used her position of influence to escape this penalty and/or liability.
That these illegal and corrupt dealings between the La Bianca Company Limited and the Custom Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority is causing huge financial losses to the state and must be halted.
Complainant says that if the Office of the Special Prosecutor does not intervene, the La Bianca Company and the Custom Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority will continue to perpetuate this illegality leading to more revenue losses to the state and the collapse of the local poultry industry and the businesses of their competitors in the imported frozen food industry
It is my firm belief that these serious allegations of corruptions will be thoroughly investigated to save the state of these revenue losses.
DATED AT ACCRA THIS 16TH DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2021.