Sri Lanka Customs moots authorized dealer system Rs 31 M in counterfeit products destroyed
By Zohara Ghaffoor
Sri Lanka Customs is actively pursuing the establishment of an authorized dealer system through the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media as a mitigation mechanism to avoid substandard products entering Sri Lanka, according to Director General P S M Charles.
The plans were disclosed to Ceylon FT yesterday at the Rank Container Terminal (RCT) Container Yard in Orugodawatte, to destroy approximately 130,000 pieces of substandard imports worth Rs 31 million in violation of the Intellectual Property Act and the Customs Ordinance. However, the countries of origin were not disclosed in a measure to maintain current diplomatic relations, according to Customs.
These items were destroyed in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy and in commemoration of International Customs Day on 26 January.
Charles, speaking to Ceylon FT, said an authorized dealer system was vital as Customs did not have information on genuine importers, adding that Customs plans to issue a gazette notification via the Ministry of Finance and Mass Media for authorized dealer registration, to streamline customs operations and prevent substandard products entering the market.
However, she said, the importers organization had been notified to liaise with Customs and register authorized dealers, while non-dealers would be put under a red channel that will carry out a total verification through a 100% check.
Speaking about further measures to limit contraband and substandard products, she said, "We are going to install new container scanners that will provide container information, such as image, weight, etc., that is required to identify contraband and risk items, which will be flagged if necessary for physical checks. Liberalization means ensuring and protecting the social wellbeing of the country. We will only support legitimate importers."
Customs Director of Policy Planning and Research, Sunil Jayarathna, answering a query about substandard products on the black market, said the private sector needed to come forward to prevent the same by forwarding complaints to the International Property Rights (IPR) unit at Customs.
"They have to support Customs to get legal action filed. We cannot control black market products on our own; we need the private sector to spot these mishaps and follow through."
Jayarathna said Sri Lanka Customs receives approximately 1,500 containers per day, of which 75 per cent of containers are released and 15 per cent of containers are examined under the red channel system. He said 30-40 per cent of containers are checked by the scanners installed at Customs.
Elaborating further, Director General Charles said the Sri Lanka Customs' Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system will be implemented in the beginning of this year, with the online 24-hour payment system already in use.
She said the digital signature platform for submission of documents, made in collaboration with Lanka Clear, will be launched on 1 February. According to her, Sri Lanka Customs looks forward to the implementation of the National Single Window and Trade Information Portal as part of Sri Lanka's trade facilitation programme. She added that the Customs Authorized Enterprises programme is in the pipeline.
Recently, Sri Lanka Customs destroyed a US$ 108 million haul of cocaine found in a container of timber on a Colombian ship bound for India. In April 2017, 450,000 counterfeit items, imported from China and India, were also destroyed by Sri Lanka Customs. In 2016, Customs destroyed 45kg of rare bird nests, valued at approximately half a million dollars. A haul of 359 pieces of blood ivory, weighing 1.5 tons and worth over Rs 4 billion, was also destroyed in the same year.
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