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DSI targets nine customs officers

BANGKOK: Nine customs officers, including two former deputies of the director-general of the Customs Department, were complicit in a scheme to import luxury cars under false pretences to avoid paying high taxes, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said yesterday (May 29).

By Bangkok Post

Tuesday 30 May 2017, 09:04AM

In showrooms (above) high-so mall shops and in private garages, the DSI has been tracking luxury cars that seem to come from a highly organised gang trafficking stolen vehicles from Britain. Photo: Post Today

In showrooms (above) high-so mall shops and in private garages, the DSI has been tracking luxury cars that seem to come from a highly organised gang trafficking stolen vehicles from Britain. Photo: Post Today

“The Office of the Auditor-General looks set to take legal action against nine customs officials who were [allegedly] involved in forging invoices so that the prices of these products [luxury cars] could be falsely declared below their true price,” said DSI deputy chief Korrawat Panprapakorn.

“Deputy director-generals of the department are among the nine,” he added.

Over 160 luxury cars have been seized for inspection, including 10 that were found to have been stolen in Britain and then smuggled to Thailand.

The nine officials were involved in an illegitimate return of B19.88 million in taxes to Jubilee Line and Niche Cars Group, Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas said, citing findings from a probe into the Customs Department’s revenue collections.

These were two of several companies raided by the DSI on May 18 when about 60 luxury cars were seized.

The raids followed a lengthy probe after a trailer truck that was transporting luxury cars was engulfed in fire in Nakhon Ratchasima province’s Pak Chong district in May 2013.

Tax evaluation officials later found the prices of a Lamborghini Gallardo and Lotus Elise S declared by Jubilee Line and Niche Cars to be unusually low, and asked the companies to provide the original invoices, said Mr Pisit.

The two companies were ordered to pay deposits covering what the legitimate taxes were believed to be in case they could not provide proof to the contrary. Jubilee Line paid B16.8mn and Niche Cars B3.4mn, Mr Pisit said.

The companies missed a seven-day deadline to confirm the previously declared prices so the deposits were confiscated, he said.

The two firms appealed the move and had their money returned upon approval by the two deputy director-generals of the Customs Department, he added.

In approving the tax return, the two deputies bypassed the authority of the committee responsible for considering the appeals filed by the companies, Mr Pisit said. The OAG probe showed this also violated Sections 10 and 112 of the Customs Act.

The OAG has sent a letter to the Customs Department asking it to investigate the alleged misconduct of its nine officials and report the findings within 90 days, he said.

Failing this the OAG will seek help from the Office of the National Counter-Corruption Commission and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission, he said.

A source close to the case said the Customs Department will have to study the OAG letter in detail before it decides how to respond. The source added that the OAG has sent a similar request to several other agencies.

Kulit Sombasiri, the department’s director-general, was not immediately available for comment when the Bangkok Post tried to contact him.

The OAG is now seeking cooperation with the Customs Department, said Lt Col Korrawat, adding that the probe is expected to become more comprehensive.

The DSI said earlier that 10 of 42 luxury cars which the British National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) said were stolen in Britain and shipped to Thailand had been located here.

The agency also impounded 160 supercars at showrooms in Bangkok on May 18 and last Wednesday (May 24) as their declared prices were unrealistically low. It later found this amounted to B3 billion in lost taxes.

In another development, the DSI refuted social media reports that actor-cum-singer Pakorn “Dome” Lam’s green Lamborghini was among the impounded supercars smuggled in from Europe.

Mr Pakorn was thrust into the spotlight after his Lamborghini Huracan was reportedly seized during a raid at a showroom of STT Autocar early this month.

But the registration and chassis number of the impounded green Lamborghini did not match those of the celebrity’s car, which was also green, DSI director-general Paisith Wongmuang said.

DSI officials’ suspicion was aroused when they found a contract indicating the 37-year-old singer had asked the showroom management to sell his car, but they also learned that the singer kept the vehicle with him at all times and not at the showroom, Col Paisith said.

The DSI said earlier that the impounded Lamborghini had been stolen in Italy before being sent to Britain and then to Thailand.

Lt Col Korrawat said the singer’s car was not among the vehicles reported as stolen in Britain and that Mr Pakorn handed the car documents to the DSI yesterday for examination.

The DSI will question more importers and dealers of luxury car importers followed by car owners, he said.

Read original story here.



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