— Urges the public not to do business with them
The National Customs Brokers Association of Liberia (NCBAL) has suspended several of its members for their alleged involvement in fraudulent activities.
The group said the suspended members have been in the habit of making false declarations of cargo that are brought in the country.
They were also found liable for defrauding consignees of their hard-earned money’ and would fail to deliver the respective cargoes — which has put some business people in debt and caused some businesses to collapse.
These acts, the association said, do not only have the propensity to undermine the credibility of the Brokers Association, but also denies the government of much needed revenue.
Those suspended include Usouf Sheriff, Peter G. Johnson, Aloysious F. Gardour, Varney Jaleiba, Wesley Karnley, Alphanso W. Barkoun and Isaac S. Bestman.
The suspension, according to NCBAL President James L. Hinneh, followed a thorough investigation conducted by the NCBAL's board of inquiry.
The board inquiry, amongst its responsibilities, serves a supervisory role in which it tracks the work and activities of brokers.
Hinneh said at a recent news conference that eight members were only involved in fraudulent declarations and some also received consignees’ money but failed to deliver the respective cargoes.
He lauded the Brokers Association board of inquiry for their efforts in bringing to book those brokers who have been defrauding the government of revenue."
The suspension, Hinneh said, is to serve as a deterrent for bad apples in the sector. “Most times, we the leaders are blamed when things go wrong, so we usually take steps to reduce fraud in the system, including false declarations and unprofessional acts by some of the members.”
The association has been fighting against imposters, Hinneh noted. He named one Lawrence Nyumah as an imposter who was caught along with the association’s suspended members.
“In addition to the eight suspended members, a man, who has been impersonating as a broker, was also caught,” he said. “Lawrence is a fake broker who is not a member of the association and is not licensed to operate, but he continues to impersonate as a broker. He has been arrested several times and placed behind bars but often gets released. We therefore would like for the police to take appropriate action.”
The suspended brokers, he noted, will remain suspended until the police conclude investigations before any further decision is taken.
“Our action is to send a clear message that we do not support fraudulent acts because our job is to facilitate trade in our country and help raise revenue for government,” Hinneh emphasized.
The NCBAL president, while pledging his group’s commitment to fighting fraud in the system, calls on relevant stakeholders to help in the process.
“We would like to call on the relevant stakeholders, especially Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), Ministry of Commerce, APM Terminals, shipping lines, and others concerned with clearing and processing, to help us enforce these mandates that will mitigate the challenges in the sector,” he added.
The Brokers Association leader views the crimes allegedly committed by the suspended members as grave and has therefore called on the public or stakeholders not to do business with them.
Hinneh commended APM Terminals for what he described as a cordial working relationship subsisting between the two business organizations, while calling on the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to do the same with them and avoid the unending and unnecessary bureaucracy. “Those unnecessary bureaucracies are affecting our operations,” he said.
Meanwhile, customs brokers are integral to the facilitation of trade and movement of goods and services across borders. Their works encompass all activities, dealings, engagements and representation with LRA or any of its officers or employees in respect of customs clearance and forwarding.
The activities or business of Customs Brokers include but are not limited to: filing of documents, declarations on importations and exportations, corresponding and communicating with the LRA, providing written advice with respect to any individual or entity, transaction, plan, or arrangement having a potential for tax avoidance or evasion, and representing a client or any third party at conferences, hearings, and meetings.