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Anti-smuggling from “the command center”

10:06 | 09/01/2017

VCN - The year of 2016 is marked a strong transformation of the General Department of Customs using equipment and modern technology in the fight against anti-smuggling and trade fraud.

chong buon lau tu trung tam chi huy
Online Customs surveillance room at General Department of Customs. Photo: Q. H

In 2016, by facilitating trading activities and investment, the General Department of Customs continued to have measures for the effective and efficient management of the fight against anti-smuggling, trade fraud and counterfeit goods. Additionally, advising the leaders of the Ministry of Finance to perform their role in the Permanent Office of National Steering Committee 389; develop and strengthen international connection with Customs in every country in the collaboration framework of the World Customs Organization (WCO) in order to prevent and combat transitional crimes such as origin forgery to enjoy preferential tariffs; cheating in valuation, quantity and weight of goods. This is necessary in the context of deeper integration into the world economy; Vietnam has been involved in numerous free trade agreements bilaterally and multilaterally.

In the border gate areas, smuggling and illegal transportion of goods still continues with key commodities such as prohibited goods, high tariff goods, cosmetics, dietary supplements, waste goods imported from USA, Japan, Australia to Vietnam; used hydraulic engines of all kinds that have origin in the US and Japan. Some other items, enterprises declared inconsistetly in order to avoid valuation; goods as gifts from Vietnam sent to relatives in Australia; electronics goods from Singapore, USA, China; wood, waste and exported goods, cheating in export; groceries shipment originated in China; used machinery from China etc. Moreover, by applying electronic clearance, enterprises can know in advance the information of channel distribution for export - import shipments, so that Customs can classify the cargo containers that did not have information as per the declaration or deliberately false declaration of HS code to enjoy low taxes. When the functional forces discovered violations, the enterprises ask to fix declarations, additional declarations, or would like to cancel declaration and make new one. There was frequent transport of suspicious goods between ports; changes in the destination port, change of consignee in order to cause difficulty for Customs enforcement forces in tracking perpetrators.

The pressures and challenges forced Customs forces in each level to conduct several meetings to find solutions. And one technological solution is building an "online command center" based on the available IT platform, combined with modern technological facilities which can meet the requirements to facilitate, moderate and control against smuggling and commercial fraud. After a period of trial operation, adjustment and improvement, in the beginning of 2016, the General Department of Customs officially launched “Online Customs Supervision Division”, formerly known as "online command center" assigned to Anti-smuggling and Investigation Department to manage. Based on the integrated equipment of surveillance systems (cameras, unmanned aerial vehicle, mobile surveillance vehicles) and IT that help Customs forces to take full advantage of resources to strengthen the capacity, and response to the increasing demands of modern Customs management. The connection, integrated with video surveillance systems, baggage scanning system, goods and containers, automotive electronics weighing systems... provides information, data, images streamed live on General Department of Customs creating an effective monitoring channel between the 3 levels in procedures implementation, professional activities at the place of doing Customs procedures to ensure the compliance of regulations, publicity and transparency. Not stopping there, the Customs forces were actually "owned" by the modern technology implementation monitoring, instantaneous detection, early warning the risk of many items illegally imported from overseas to Vietnam. Therefore, in each detected violation case, mobile surveillance vehicles, cameras at the scene had to serve effectively for the direction and administration of remote, effective deterrence and prevent violations.

The story of new iPhone 6S mobile phones entering Vietnam is a typical example. From the information on the centralized data system at the Online Customs Supervision Division showed that the people P.M.H several times left and re-entered between Vietnam and Singapore. Linking all the sources, in the morning of September 25th , many Vietnamese people queued up to buy iPhone 6S phones in Singapore so that the Customs force had to be vigilant and planned to seize. In the afternoon of the same day, P.M.H arrived at Noi Bai International Airport (Vietnam) then was immediately arrested by the Customs force, luggage containing 20 iPhone 6S mobile phones without customs declaration was seized. The warning information about smuggling iPhone 6S continues to be transmitted from the General Department of Customs. A few days later, Tan Son Nhat International Airport Customs Branch (HCMC Customs Department) in cooperation with the Anti-Smuggling Enforcement Unit in the Southern Area (Team 3-Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department, General Department of Customs) detectied 2 entry passengers, transporting 153 smuggled iPhone 6S mobile phones.

Successes in the first step are drawn from the actual lessons learned from previous practices. Recalling in 2010, the General Department of Customs "owned" the first container scanner installed at Tan Cang Cat Lai (HCMC). Currenlty, there are 6 local Customs Departments with large import-export goods turnover that are equipped with 11 fixed container scanning systems, mobile and gateway types. Screening by Customs forces not only reduces the time by 4 to 6 times compared to manual inspection but the detection rate increased leading potential perpetrators to be wary smuggling. Thanks to screening, Customs forces can rapidly detect false declaration of goods; minimize commercial fraud, smuggling prohibited goods prevented by hiding in export shipments, imports of goods security, counter-terrorism and implement international commitments, etc.

In Hai Phong Customs, from the beginning of the year to the end of November 15th 2016, 2 screening systems screened 19,896 containers. In particular, the number of containers with suspicious images were conducted by manual inspection for 557 containers and detected 99 violated containers, the total amount of administrative penalties and taxes increased by nearly 2 billion VND. The violations mostly related to commercial fraud and tax evasion, while the violations involving prohibited goods transport, significantly decreased. Especially, since the beginning of 2016 until now, in Hai Phong "absence" of smuggling ivory, which was found "hot" in the area several years ago.

The year of 2016 recognized the efforts of Customs forces in destroying and blocking smuggling of prohibited goods or goods infringing intellectual property with key properties. The above achievements are seen as a warning that helps Customs forces to have additional lessons for building strong systems and practical knowledge of routes, airlines, and sea ports into the future.

By Quang Hùng/Thanh Thuy