News Column

Beirut Customs Department Denies Port Corruption Accusation

Dec. 23, 2012

The Customs Department said Friday media reports about corruption and squandering at the Port of Beirut were baseless; arguing that the decline in 2011 revenues were due to lower fuel taxes and tougher car import regulations.

"Accusations of billions of dollars in waste were made without providing a single piece of evidence," the department said in a statement, quoted by the National News Agency.

The Customs Department said revenues have increased 212 percent between 2002 and 2010 reaching $3.426 billion, it said.

Between 2010 and 2011, it added, revenues fell $402 million, after the government eliminated a LL5,000 (per-20-liter) gasoline tax and implemented higher safety standards on second-hand car imports.

The department said that various tax reductions on gasoline implemented between 2002 and 2012 had resulted in lowering Customs revenues by more than $2.4 billion, a figure larger than squandering figures circulating in media, based on increase in volume of imports during the last decade.

The department said that it had taken very strict measures to lower customs evasion. "These regulations will affect the flow of goods temporarily, but will cut down on chances of violations," the statement added.

Port of Beirut revenues increased 8.8 percent to reach $158.5 million in the first 11 months of 2012 from $145.7 million in 2011, the port authority said last week.

Goods handled by the Port of Beirut both by weight and number of containers, increased by 8 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

Public Works and Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi accused on several occasions certain parties at the port of approving the entry of large quantities of goods without paying taxes.

Some politicians and experts estimate the waste at Customs at more than $1.5 billion a year, a claim which was apparently not substantiated by the concerned parties.

Waste and corruption in government departments are seen as on the primary loss of revenues.


Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)

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