Labianca Corruption: GRA dissociates itself from Customs Commissioner

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Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA)
Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA)

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has distance itself from comments by its Commissioner of Customs on the Special Prosecutor’s report of corruption involving Labianca Group of companies and the Customs Division of GRA. 

In its investigative report, the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) accused the owner of Labianca Limited, Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh of influence-peddling for allegedly using her position as a member of the Council of State and of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) Board of Directors to get a favourable decision from the Customs Division, leading to a reduction in the tax liabilities of her company.

The OSP has therefore recovered GH¢1.074 million from Labianca Company Limited. The amount represents a shortfall in import duties the frozen foods company paid to the state.

Following news of the OSP’s report and the recovery of funds from Labianca, the Commissioner of Customer,  Colonel (Rtd.) Kwadwo Damoah took a swipe at the report and at the person of the Special Prosecutor during a Customs Division Management Retreat in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region.

Col. Damoah said of the report: “If you read it very well, there is nothing in it. It is hollow.”

He also alleged some underlying friction between him and the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyabeng, because of which, he alleged, the Special Prosecutor is trying to tarnish his image.

“I even sent people to go and tell him [Kissi Agyabeng] that he is a small boy. I am older than him,” Col. Damoah said. “If he attempts to destroy me, it won’t be easy for him. People have tried it. I have survived, and this one too, I will survive.”

He then alleged that report was designed to destroy his reputation following his refusal to second one of his men, one Mr. Akrugu, to the office of the Special Prosecutor.

According to him, the said Akrugu deals with tariffs and valuation at Customs so he cannot second him to the Office of the Special Prosecutor because he has a primary role to play in Customs.

Col. Damoah said Mr. Akurugu subsequently resigned, joined the Special Prosecutor and made allegations against him.

But in a statement signed by the Commissioner-General, Rev. Dr. Amishaddai Owusu-Amoah, GRA said the the comments made by Col. Kwadwo Damoah Rtd. on the outcomes of the investigation were made in his personal capacity and do not represent the opinion of the Board and Management of GRA.

The GRA then expressed its respect for the Special Prosecutor and stated that in the spirit of seeking to block leakages and improve on revenue collection, it is studying the Special Prosecutor’s report on the Labianca/Customs saga with the view to taking the necessary steps to block any further leakages.

“GRA uses this opportunity to assure all stakeholders of GRA and the general public that GRA has taken steps to ensure that all allegations of impropriety on the part of any of its staff are promptly and decisively investigated and that all cases of tax evasion or other acts that are contrary to the Laws governing the Authority will be dealt with,” the statement said.

Below is the full statement from the GRA:

REACTION TO REPORT OF THE OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR’S INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGED COMMISSION OF CORRUPTION AND CORRUPTION RELATED OFFENCES INVOLVING LABIANCA GROUP OF COMPANIES AND THE CUSTOMS DIVISION OF GRA

The Board and Management of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has followed media discussions and reactions following the release of the Report of the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into alleged commission of corruption and corruption related offences involving Labianca Group of companies and the Customs Division of GRA.

The Authority would like to state for the record that it accords the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) the respect and the dignity that the OSP carries. GRA continually looks for every opportunity to improve on revenue as well as block any leakage. To this end, GRA is studying the outcomes of the report in detail and will not hesitate to ensure that per its mandate all processes and procedures that are identified to lead to loss of revenue or have the potential to lead to loss of revenue are blocked.

In this regard the Authority wishes to state that the comments made by the Commissioner of the Customs Division, Col Kwadwo Damoah Rtd. at the Customs Management Retreat on Wednesday 10th August 2022 on the outcomes of the investigation were made in his personal capacity and do not convey the opinion of the Board and Management of GRA.

GRA wishes to assure the general public that prior to the release of the OSP’s report, it had taken steps to streamline and improve on the processes of accurately determining values of imported items and products. With the inauguration of the new GRA Board of Directors in August 2021, the Authority took firm steps to deal with practices or procedures that had the potential of reducing or not giving maximum value to transactions at importation. One of such measures was to give a directive in December 2021 that with immediate effect no discounts or rebates are given on items or products at importation and to cancel all existing approved discounts.

As stated above, GRA is ensuring that all unreasonable exercise of discretionary power which will result in the loss of revenue will be prevented.
www.gra.gov.gh

GRA uses this opportunity to assure all stakeholders of GRA and the general public that GRA has taken steps to ensure that all allegations of impropriety on the part of any of its staff are promptly and decisively investigated and that all cases of tax evasion or other acts that are contrary to the Laws governing the Authority will be dealt with.

Thank you.

SIGNED
AMMISHADDAI OWUSU-AMOAH (REV. DR.) COMMISSIONER-GENERAL

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