SL, Singapore to combat smuggling, illegal trade

An agreement between Sri Lanka and Singapore is to be inked tomorrow to jointly combat smuggling, illegal trade and other related fraud, Customs Spokesman Deputy Director Sunil Jayaratne yesterday said.

According to Deputy Director Jayaratne, this bilateral agreement will provide for effective cooperation between the two countries which will allow Sri Lanka to improve its trade facilitation and find remedies to Customs compliance issues.

The agreement will also facilitate Sri Lanka in advanced technology and risk management, Jayaratne said.

He also pointed out that Sri Lanka will receive assistance to improve the post-clearance audit system, which will strengthen its international trade facilitation services.

“The time taken between arrival and clearance at Singapore Customs is very limited. They provide clearance facilities to their traders based on an as-soon-as-possible policy. For us to provide such a service, advanced technology is extremely important,” he explained.

Jayaratne said this will be a part of the Sri Lanka - Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA) which was launched in mid-2016 and was subsequently signed in January 2018. The FTA covers areas including trade in services, e-commerce, telecommunications, investments, intellectual property and government procurement.

“Among all these facilities, Sri Lanka Customs will receive improved technology and support to curb illegal trade and trafficking,” Deputy Director Jayaratne explained. “Information sharing and alerting each other on possible trafficking will allow us to take stronger counter-measures. Sri Lanka has reached similar mutual agreements with countries such as India and China as well.

It is a humongous task to counter the well-established illegal trade and trafficking network that operates around the globe, especially for a country like Sri Lanka. Mutual agreements as these allow us to improve our counter-measures against such a network.” According to Deputy Director Jayaratne, Sri Lanka Customs seized 49.5 kg of gold attempted to be smuggled via sea routes, within the first quarter of 2018. The seized gold amounts to Rs. 311 million. The penalty on the same amounts to Rs. 4 million.

Gold worth Rs 7.8 million (1.3 kgs) was nabbed at the airport by the SL Customs in the last four months. The penalty amounts to Rs. 2.1 million.

“In 2017, Sri Lanka Customs seized Rs. 198 million worth of gold attempted to be smuggled out of the country,” Deputy Director Jayaratne pointed out. “Rs. 325 million worth of foreign currency was also nabbed by SL Customs.

The penalty on these frauds amounts to Rs. 8.9 million. Steps such as imposing taxes on gold will not solve the matter in the long run.

Advanced technology, a strong surveillance network, capacity building and compliance are important factors when curbing trafficking and illegal trade.”

Jayaratne also said the facilitation received by Sri Lanka Customs for being a part of the Trade Facilitation Agreement adopted by the World Trade Organization in 2017 also contributed to the same cause.

The FTA provisions expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, establish effective cooperation between Customs and other agencies on trade facilitation, Customs compliance, technical assistance and capacity building. Facilities such as the National Single Window and the Trade Information Portal are a part of the support provided by the FTA which will significantly improve the trade facilitation environment in Sri Lanka. 

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