Khalil: Corruption at Customs Costing State 1.2 Billion Dollarsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil pledged his intention to crackdown on corruption at customs agencies at various land and air border-crossings, reported As Safir newspaper on Thursday.
He revealed to the daily that corruption at the customs agencies have cost the state around 1.2 billion dollars.
Other estimates have placed this number at at least 700 million dollars annually.
As Safir said that four “central and mixed groups work at scamming customs at Beirut Port.”
These groups manipulate fees, forge documents, and exercise other illegal activity, it explained.
Others work on smuggling goods from land border-crossings with Syria, in cooperation with Syrian regime forces and even its rivals, said the daily.
At the Rafik Hariri International Airport meanwhile, its networks are dedicated to facilitating the entry of goods that have not been granted authorization by forged customs documents, it reported.
These goods are therefore not subject to inspection to determine whether they meet quality standards, it explained.
Two smuggling networks have been uncovered at the airport.
They both start in India and China and pass through Dubai and arrive in Lebanon.
These networks enjoy “political clout from the highest administrative levels,” added As Safir.
They include medium and regular rank employees, as well as some public sector officials at crossings, it continued.
Furthermore, Khalil said that the smuggling and counterfeiting mafias have “spies within customs agencies that allow them to become more powerful that official auditing networks.”
He revealed that he has received the majority of the information on corruption at customs agencies from victims of scams.
A sign of the corruption was demonstrated when 19 tons of spoiled shrimp was removed from a warehouse where they were being stored and later sold in the local market.
Lab tests had proven that they do not meet health standards and the warehouse had been sealed close.
Khalil revealed however that “someone had opened the depot door and allowed the food to be sold in violation of moral and legal principles.”
“The owner of the product had later unashamedly demanded that the fine against him, which did not exceed 20 million Lebanese pounds, be reduced,” he continued.
Given this reality, the minister had carried out a reshuffle at customs agencies, targeting 36 auditors, 34 officers, and 845 workers, reported As Safir.
He is determined to carry out routine reshuffles once every three months, it stated.
Moreover, 17 officials have since been referred to the judiciary for committing violations.