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Business News Thu, 27 Sep 2007

CEPS asks CCTC to settle import duty arrears

Accra, Sept 27, GNA- The Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) has served a demand notice on the Continental Commodity Trading Company (CCTC), to pay import duty arrears of 2.6 million Ghana cedis, which should have been paid in 2006.

This was announced at the Thursday sitting of the Committee Investigating Operational Irregularities of CEPS, at which the management of the company was present to react to earlier evidence that it was among some companies that were in arrears of import taxes for warehoused goods.

The CEPS in its notice stated that it would take measures to collect the taxes, but the Managing Director of the Company, Mr Edmund Nabil Moukarzel, said CCTC was yet to study the notice and respond. Evidence before the Committee have it that CCTC was among some eight companies in import duty arrears of more than 13,000,000 Ghana Cedis.

Mr Moukarzel in his evidence said the CCTC had multiple warehouses at six different locations and dealt in rice and sugar. He said under an arrangement with CEPS, all duties had to be paid the minute a decision was made to clear the goods from the warehouse. Mr Moukarzel stated, contrary to earlier evidence by Mr Raphael Tagoe, Chief Customs Collector in Charge of Accra Collection that at any time the number of bags of rice could be known.

When the Chairman of the Committee, Mr Justice Samuel Glenn Baddoo brought to the attention of the Witness, that records available before the Committee indicated that the import duties of some goods, which were taken delivery of in 2003 by the CCTC were paid for in 2007, Mr Moukarzel said: " I'm sorry, I'll have to refer to my file". Earlier, counsel for Mr Moukarzel, Mr Kojo Botsio Jnr, had raised objections on a media publication, which said the information on the inclusion of CCTC in the list of companies that had defaulted import license payment had been obtained from a "source" close to the committee, imputing that a Committee member had leaked information to the media.

Mr Botsio also sought to get the instrument setting up the Committee, but the Chairman explained that it was rather established by the Ministry of Finance, adding that the Committee could make it available later.

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Mr Justice Baddoo, a former Supreme Court Judge, Chairman of the Ghana Police Council and a Lecturer at the Ghana School of Law, said the report came from evidence before the Committee.

He also explained that jurisdiction was the basis of every judicial proceeding, adding that, if the Counsel had sought the instrument because of jurisdictional issues, he would not have sat on the Committee if it lacked jurisdiction.

He assured Ghanaians that the Committee was not set up to harass anyone, neither to run any company down, but rather to look into matters affecting performance of the CEPS in its revenue collection. Mr Justice Baddoo recalled the ideals of the founding fathers of Ghana, including the late Mr Kojo Botsio, the Lawyer's father, to provide better life for Ghanaians.

Mr Botsio, together with Mr John Awuni, Corporate Affairs Manager of CCTC, apologized to the Committee for any innuendo that a letter of complaint might have caused the Committee.

Mr Awuni said the Company was not "shady" but a serious one employing more that 2,000 workers and was fully committed to honouring its social responsibilities.

Source: GNA
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