The Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) is dragging the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to its offices to assist in investigations into the suspected import duties evasion involving businessman Ibrahim Mahama.
The businessman, who is also the brother of former President John Mahama, is at the centre of a headline grabbing import scandal which has trended in the media since last week and does not show signs of abating anytime soon – not with the invitation of the Customs Division to answer questions pertaining to its role in the scandal.
Ibrahim Mahama, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Engineers & Planners, was hauled before the anti-graft agency for purportedly issuing in 2015 post-dated cheques totaling 44 to the Customs Division, being duties for imports of equipment, but which turned out to be dud, DAILY GUIDE learnt.
Curious minds are saying that if the New Patriotic Party (NPP) had not won last year’s elections, the money involved would not have been paid since it dates back two years ago and GRA was not in a hurry to collect it.
On Friday EOCO ordered Mr Ibrahim Mahama to pay a sum of GH¢12.7 million for the unpaid duties.
He is to make the payment by Monday, 8th May, 2017.
Ibrahim Mahama had been invited by EOCO to answer questions over some dud cheques he issued to the Customs at the Tema Port to clear the heavy-duty equipment he had imported since 2015.
Even though the cheques were dishonoured, it is believed that he succeeded in clearing the goods because of his connection to the seat of power.
DAILY GUIDE has also learnt that Ibrahim is being investigated over alleged non-payment of SSNIT contributions of his workers.
Even before this, Ibrahim Mahama has made a number of appearances before officials of EOCO during which he is said to have agreed to make good his duty obligation to the state.
The invitation to the Customs to answer queries about why it breached its standards comes at the heels of similar questions posed by members of the public, who wondered whether the regulations binding payments of duties for imports have been varied upon learning about the Ibrahim Mahama dud cheque episode.
DAILY GUIDE investigations have indicated that only the Sector Commander, an Assistant Commissioner, can authorize the release of goods at the point of entry in the case under review – the Port of Tema – under approved conditions.
Customs officials, by their operations, do not handle cash, the importer paying through the two approved banks, ECOBANK and the GCB Bank.
In the case where a company or an individual wants to make payments through cheques, they must hold accounts with the two banks – ECOBANK or the GCB Bank – so a quick verification of the status of the accounts can be ascertained and a decision taken.
Duty on goods must have been paid to trigger the paper processing by customs officers or specifically the Compliance Officer, before the goods are released.
The Compliance Officer is the person who does the verification of the accompanying documents before the examination of the items, to ensure that they correspond to what is recorded in the documents before release procedures, which must be preceded by the payment of the appropriate duties.
Once payment is made through ECOBANK or GCB Bank, the GCNET – managers of the database – generate a message to Customs which then proceeds with the procedures.
The Sector Commander, in rare instances, can authorize release of goods after the importer pays in money, which is above what is expected to be paid eventually so a proper tallying can be done later.
The rescheduling of payment of duties can only be authorized by the Commissioner-General of the GRA and even then the importer must submit a written application giving reasons, supported by a bank which stands as a surety or guarantor in an event of default.
Under this condition, which must fall within an approved financial threshold, the importer must have paid a certain proportion of the duty and the rest paid on an agreed date not beyond six months. Importer/applicant must hold ECOBANK and GCB Bank accounts for easy verification.
A political intervention, many are conjecturing, could have been responsible for the breach. When a representative of the revenue collecting agency makes a date with EOCO, another can of worms is set to be opened in the ongoing investigation.
A poorly attended organised picketing by hordes of National Democratic Congress (NDC) supporters – most of them motorcyclists – added drama to the last appearance of Ibrahim Mahama at EOCO.
An NDC national executive officer – a suspect in an ongoing investigation at EOCO who was thought to have organised the picketing – took to his heels when he was spotted by a top official of the investigation agency and beckoned him to come.
Exchanges among NDC supporters on a WhatsApp platform said it all about how the ill-fated picketing was organised.
One of them asked why they should go and picket for Ibrahim Mahama when same was not done for Dr. Stephen Opuni, embattled former COCOBOD chief executive who was also a guest of EOCO earlier.
“If we make others look far special than others we will never get far in our fight,” the person argued.
In another posting, one of the supporters said he was at the assembling point but could only see six persons.
“Comrades, we are only about six people here so where are guys? Pls come out now cuz NPP is taking advantage of the situation,” the person said frustratingly after appeals for mass support appeared to have been ignored.
There was yet another posting in which the person contributing to the chat said he was proceeding from Medie on the Nsawam Road.
By A.R. Gomda