A joint operation by the Revenue Protection Unit (RPU) and Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) has seized over 600 boxes of varied brands of wines and spirits that had been fraudulently taken out of the Customs stores.
The goods in at least eleven different brands belonging to Godfrey Nkusi, a local businessman were seized on Tuesday in the City of Kigali.
The assorted alcoholic drinks include Black and Red labels, Martin, Sheridan’s, Moet & Chandon, and Mouton Cadet.
Others include KWV (Merlot), Courvoisie, Cinzano, B&G, Smirnoff and Dragon’s Back.
According to Raphael Tugirumuremyi, commissioner for Customs, the smuggler had evaded taxes worth Rwf70 million.
“The fraudulent acts were conducted as the owner was clearing the goods from our stores, where he under-declared the actual quantity. The goods were intercepted before being delivered to the stores of the owner, for physical evaluation, where we discovered the fraud,” Tugirumuremyi.
“Some of the goods either had no tax stamps or were concealed inside other boxes. Investigations are still underway even on previous records to find out if there were no similar fraudulent means in his businesses before,” he added.
“Together with Police, we have strengthened operations against smuggling and fraud, and we are seeing a tremendous reduction in these illegal businesses,” said Tugirumuremyi.
According to the commanding officer of RPU, Chief Supt. Sam Bugingo, a Rwanda National Police (RNP) arm attached to the tax body to fight fraud and smuggling, Nkusi had initially declared 1245 boxes at Dar es Salaam port in Tanzania.
“He, however, declared only 600 boxes at customs in Rwanda. This was realized few minutes later following credible information from an informant. We intercepted the two trucks that were taking the goods to their stores, and after thorough verification, we realized that 645 boxes had not been declared,” said Chief Supt. Bugingo.
“We have impounded the car and the goods. In such a case, the East African Community Management Act, which we use, is very clear on penalties,” he added.
In its article 199, the driver is slapped a fine of US$5000 while the vehicle and the goods are auctioned.
Under article 369 of the Rwandan Penal Code, the offender faces a penalty equal to the evaded tax.
“Through awareness and strong partnership with the general public, we receive credible information from the people on smugglers and routes used. We also conduct 24/7 patrols on highways, and snap-checks; all these informs our successful operations,” Bugingo said.