Press Release

Online shopping hassle - Cheats causing Customs to demand in-person office visits to verify invoices

Jamaica Gleaner
Published:
Monday | July 30, 2018 
Carlene Davis/Gleaner Writer

 

The Jamaica Customs Agency is standing behind its decision to demand that persons come into its offices to provide electronic verification of the amount that they have paid for goods they order online.

Several persons have complained about the hassle of going into a customs office to log into whatever account they used to purchase the goods to prove the legitimacy of their online receipts.

But acting deputy commissioner of the Jamaica Customs Agency, Kirk Benjamin, in an interview with The Gleaner, said they instituted the check because persons have been trying to beat the system by producing fictitious receipts.

According to Benjamin, until they start receiving the receipts electronically, from the sellers overseas, that is the best option.

"You might get an item, and this item would normally sell for US$100, but you got it for US$30, now you might not have an invoice that's in the shipment, because from time to time, persons say it's a gift. So we ask that you come, and open the account to prove.

"There are times when we find that persons submit false invoices. It's something we grapple with every day, people trying to beat the system," said Benjamin.

Among the persons who complained to our newsroom was Dmitri Dawkins, who describe this process as "a grand waste of time".

He told The Gleaner that he got a 70 per cent deal on a tent, which made the item less than US$50, which is the limit that you can purchase an item for online without attracting customs duty.

According to Dawkins, he was surprised when the courier service he used called him to say that the item was flagged at Customs for additional processing.

"Customs said despite my providing an invoice, that it couldn't verify that price online anywhere. The courier service attempted to clear it multiple times and then advised me that I would have to go to Customs to provide proof of legitimacy by logging into my Amazon account. I found this ridiculous," said Dawkins.

 

 

Customs urges closing of ranks to topple corruption

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Jamaica Observer, Sunday, July 29, 2018


Commissioner of Customs, Velma Ricketts Walker, emphasises the importance of State agencies working together to stamp out corruption at the island’s ports.

Commissioner of Customs, Velma Ricketts Walker emphasises the importance of State agencies working together to stamp out corruption at the island’s ports.

Commissioner of Customs Velma Ricketts Walker says that all agencies of the State involved in customs administration and border protection must continue to close ranks to stamp out corruption, as this should not only be seen as a customs issue but a national imperative.

“Criminals work together, so we have to ensure that we are a step ahead of them and collaborate accordingly to prevent these things. While there must be accountability, the blame game sometimes doesn't help — sometimes it worsens the situation, and that is why our approach at Customs is to work with and together with the other entities to get it right,” the chief executive officer stated in a Jamaica Observer interview on the ramping up of mechanisms at the Jamaica Customs Agency to tighten internal control, border protection, and ultimately help bolster national security.

Ricketts Walker said that while Customs often bears the brunt of accusations about corruption or misconduct, the public must become cognisant of the fact that keeping the ports secure is the responsibility of multiple other agencies, not just Customs.

She pointed to the container of counterfeit cigarettes valued at more than $400 million, which the police seized at a house in St James in mid-June, as an example of a breach for which the blame was laid squarely at the feet of Customs. “The cigarette container that left the port was a trans-shipment container. That container had no business on the road. It's a container that came from X country and should find itself in another country. The fact that it left tells us that there is indeed weaknesses within the system… which we have already identified and flagged,” she said.

“Port-wise (internal collusion) is a very difficult thing to deal with because it's about people. You're unable to know who are the persons involved. While Customs ensures that there is a certain level of vetting, we have to also ensure that the other areas that operate on the port are mandated to do such vetting of their staff as well, and that that vetting is ongoing,” she said.

The Customs commissioner added that the agency also has to ensure that the technology other stakeholders use, is also reliable to offer a certain level of assurance as well.

“We have found ourselves in a position where we are the entity being blamed, (and) I do understand that because when persons go to the port or the point of clearance their last interface most times is with Customs, so we become that face. We have to ensure that since we are the ones being blamed that we play an even greater role in ensuring that the security apparatus is within the port system and the all other warehouses that we operate. That is one of the things that we have been working on, to ensure that partnership and coordination is there and even go beyond that and be enforcers to ensure that things are done the right and proper way to prevent these things from happening,” Ricketts Walker outlined.

Director of Cargo Imaging,Kingsley Henry made the point also that along with its law enforcement partners, Customs has made significant strides in detecting illegal or corrupt activities. “One thing we can tell you is that our systems work and had it not been, for example, the policy of 100 per cent scanning, we can confidently say that our situation in terms of illicit items entering the country would be far greater,” he stated.

At the same time, he noted that the port environment is not perfect. “What happens within the large space of the port with all the different players (is) there is the issue of collusion. Corruption isn't a customs issue, it is a national issue that we have so all the players on the ports and the port environment would be subjected to the same influences that our officers would be subjected to. So people in organised crime, for example, would be able to find their way around and through the mechanisms that you have,” he elaborated.

Meanwhile, he said there is now a policy of 100 per cent scanning of domestic import and export containers. However, he said that it is still not logistically possible to scan trans-shipment containers. “If you take for example Kingston Freeport Terminal the trans-shipment volumes may be anywhere between 1.5 and 2.5 million per year, so what we have to rely on is intelligence coming from Customs administration and other law enforcement agencies,” he explained, adding that the agency is developing a project to acquire the most modern scanning technology.

Director of Internal Affairs at the agency, Tameka Goulbourne stressed also that staff are being sensitised about corruption, and the consequences, on an ongoing basis. She said the feedback has been positive and that in fact with a better understanding of what constitutes corruption, more staff have been reporting misconduct.

At the same time, Ricketts Walker made clear that under its anti-corruption strategy, Customs will be coming for corrupt individuals.

She argued that while the agency is often lambasted about corruption, and has taken significant steps to mitigate corruption, those who seek to bribe agents of the State must also be held accountable. “We do not want a Jamaica where persons think it is an easy thing to come and make any advance to corrupt our officers. If that is found out, then there also will be a mechanism to highlight that to Jamaica — it doesn't matter who that individual is,” she said.

 

 

 

JCA Wins 2018 WCO Photo Competition

The Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), and by extension Jamaica and the Caribbean Region, copped the WCO 2018 Photo Competition, held on June 30, in Brussels, Germany. The JCA snatched the coveted award from a pool of sixty (63) entrants from around the globe. The award was presented to our Commissioner, at the 132nd Session of the Customs Cooperation Council Meeting.

See our winning photo below. Also see link to view all the entries.

 

TITLE: Jamaica “Customs in Action”: Facilitating Trade, Protecting Our People, Building Our Country


The Customs Officers of the Jamaica Customs Agency are the epitome of our motto “Country Above Self,” driven by our core values of Customer Service, Accountability, Professionalism, Integrity and Transparency (CAPIT). Whether large or small, industrialized or rustic, the Jamaica Customs Agency seeks to ensure that all our stakeholders, enjoy efficient and friendly service, within a secure business environment.

 

The Agency continues to relentlessly protect Jamaica’s borders from illegal trading, while ably keeping the economic wheels of our country turning, ultimately contributing to our National Development Goal of making “Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.”

 

 

 

Jamaica Customs Quells “Fake Rice” News Making Rounds in Social Media

In keeping with a statement,  appearing in social media spaces recently, pertaining to the importation of contaminated rice in Jamaica, the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) is advising the public that the Agency has no proof that the rice referred to in the statement, has come through Jamaica’s controlled ports/borders (Customs).

In the meantime, the JCA is urging members of the public, that if they have evidence or proof that this product is present in Jamaica, or is being sold on the market, to bring to the attention of the Agency, and the regulatory agencies within the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF).

The JCA assures all our stakeholders that we remain committed to protecting our country, people and environment, epitomized in our motto “Country Above Self.” 

 

 

 

Disruption of ePayment Services

The JCA wishes to advise that our ePayment Services will be taken offline for urgent maintenance. Until the service has been fully restored, we request that you make use of alternative means of payment for the further processing of your declarations by the Agency.  

Please note payments can be tendered at the nearest Customs Cashier using the Point of Sale terminals in this regard.  

The option of RTGS allowing direct funds transfer may also be used with the completion and submission of the attached form. The instructions for use are as follows:

1.     Amount Transferred must be equal to the TOTAL OF ALL ENTRIES LISTED (only for Commercial Entries).

2.     Payments that are successfully submitted will be processed and the transaction records will be updated for further processing.

3.     Payments submitted after banking hours may be reflective the next day which will thereafter be processed. 

4.     After successful transfer of funds from your account, complete and E-mail the copy of the Direct Payment Advice Form to directpayment@jacustoms.gov.jm along with your confirmation receipt.

Please call our Revenue Accounts Unit for further details or verification at 948-5151 or 922-5140-8 for use of these payment options.

We are aware that there are outstanding payments that are not reconciled and we are in the process of fixing those. The JCA apologizes for any inconvenience caused and will be working assiduously to restore services for start of business day tomorrow June 19, 2019.

Please note the The Customs Management System (ASYCUDA) is not affected and is functional.

 

 

 

 

Jamaica Customs Reminds Charity Organisations of Procedures for Clearing Charitable Items

The Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) recognises the contribution and crucial role charitable organisations play in the development of Jamaica, and the ease at which they do business with the entity, is in keeping with the Agency’s mandate to facilitate trade through the implementation of efficient and effective processes.

Noting a newspaper article dated Sunday, June 10, 2018, entitled: Customs red tape chokes charity event for infants, the blind’, the JCA is reminding all charities, foundations and individuals, of the requirements and procedures for clearing charitable items. In this regard, charitable organisations must note the following:

  1. All shipments must be consigned in the name and address of the charitable organisation only, before it arrives in Jamaica.
  2. A Tax Compliance Certificate (TCC) is required for clearing all shipments.
  3. Where an individual other than officers of the charitable organisation is being asked to undertake clearance, a notarised letter of authorisation on the organisation’s letter head must be presented to Customs. 
  4. The name and signatory on the authorisation letter must be compatible with the information uploaded to the JCA’s database in respect of said charitable organisation.
  5. A Special Declaration must be completed and signed by the responsible officer on the organisation’s letter head. This is to be given to the authorised person conducting business on behalf of the Charity or the licensed Customs Broker.
  6. A licensed Customs Broker is required to clear shipments valued at and above US$5,000.00, and a C73 Form (Authorisation for a Person to act on behalf of another) must be completed. However, the Charity reserves the right to contract a licensed Customs Broker for shipments of US$5,000.00, and under this amount.

As it pertains to shipments of US$5,000.00 or more, a licensed Customs Broker, who, upon receiving a completed C73 form, must prepare an entry into ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data), and upload all supporting documents necessary to facilitate processing. 

Additionally, Officers of charitable organisations, or persons authorised to clear shipments of US$5,000.00 or less, should proceed to the Port of Clearance with the documents pertaining to the shipment consigned to the name and address of the Charitable organisation to include:

  • A copy of the Certificate of Registration of Approved Charity
  • A letter of authorisation where applicable
  • The signed Special Declaration
  • Bill of lading or Airway Bill
  • Packing list
  • Invoice
  • Tax Compliance Certificate
  • Permits/licences where applicable
  • Any other document pertaining to the shipment

Charities or persons authorised to effect clearance, are also being reminded that as at November 1, 2017, they should proceed directly to the Port of Clearance to undertake same, and not to “Customs House” as was previously the case. This is in keeping with the Agency’s thrust to improve its operational processes and procedures to the benefit of all customers.

 

 

 

Jamaica Customs Reminds Customers to Desist from Abusing Customs Officials

The Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) is reminding passengers, importers and anyone who does business with the Agency to desist from behaving in a disorderly manner, verbally abusing or physically harming, or obstructing a Customs Official in carrying out official duties, as they may be liable for prosecution. 

This reminder comes against the background of a recent incident, which took place at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) in Kingston, involving the assault of a Customs Official by two females, following the assessment of Customs duty. The assessment was calculated after one of the females, exceeded her US$500.00 duty-free allowance, an entitlement given to all passengers eighteen years and older.  In this regard, her other items would be subject to Customs duty.

The two females were subsequently charged for ‘Obstructing a Customs Officer’, ‘Assaulting a Constable’, ‘Disorderly Behaviour’, and ‘Using Indecent Language’ and appeared before the Kingston & St. Andrew Parish Court. The Defendants pleaded guilty to three (3) offences and were each fined, $100,000.00 or three (3) months imprisonment for Obstructing a Constable, and $10,000.00 or thirty (30) days imprisonment for Disorderly Behaviour. 

The JCA takes this opportunity to encourage persons to use peaceful means to resolve differences and reminds our customers that, should a disagreement arise as to the assessment of any Customs duty or charges, a request may be made for a re-assessment by a Supervisor. If they are dissatisfied with the re-assessment of the Supervisor, the JCA encourages the use of the Appeals Process through our Valuation and Verification Unit located at our head office – Myers’ Wharf, Newport East, Kingston.

We thank all our customers for their business and look forward to their cooperation.

 

 

Jamaica Sets Precedence – Customs Head Appointed Chairperson of WCO’S Capacity Building Committee

(From left) Ernani Checcucci, Director, Capacity Building Directorate; Immediate Past Chair, Per Arvid Nordli; Velma Ricketts Walker newly appointed Chair, Capacity Building Committee (CBC); Brenda Mundia, Deputy Director, Capacity Building Directorate; and Daniel Perrier; Vice Chair of the CBC.

 

In a precedence-setting move, CEO/Commissioner of the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), Mrs. Velma Ricketts Walker, has been elected by the membership of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) to serve as Chairperson of the WCO’s Capacity Building Committee (CBC). She has the distinction of being the first female chairperson of the CBC, and the first person from Jamaica and the Caribbean to hold the post. Mrs. Ricketts Walker vied for the post at the 9th Session of the WCO Capacity Building Committee (CBC), which was held in Brussels from 26 to 28 February 2018, under the theme “Smart Customs: The Gateway to High Performance and Sustainability.”

Mrs. Ricketts Walker will serve for a period of one (1) year and will be eligible for re-election. Canada will serve as Vice-Chair for the Committee, with Norway being the outgoing Chair. Previous chairpersons were from Canada, Brazil and Norway. The CBC enjoys wide membership support and comes in second, with over 200 participants, only to the WCO’s Annual General Council Meeting.

Jamaica has been a member of the WCO since 1963. The WCO has 182 members from across six (6) regions; namely the Americas and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Eastern and Southern Africa, Western and Central Africa and the Middle East and Northern Africa. The CBC has been gaining increasing support in recent times, as Customs administrations focus on modernization and capacity building, especially in light of their obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which entered into force on February 22, 2017.

The CBC’s mandate is to initiate work and studies on capacity building to consider overall capacity building priorities, and to prepare guidelines, standards, tools and instruments to support capacity building objectives. It also provides a forum for cooperation and information exchange on development topics. These initiatives are informed by an annual needs assessment process carried out together by the WCO Secretariat and Member administrations, and supported by the Regional Offices for Capacity Building (ROCBs).

Since the last session of the CBC, held in March 2017, 492 capacity building missions have been conducted across all six (6) regions of the WCO, with more than 130 Members benefitting from this support. Jamaica has been benefitting from various capacity building initiatives including the WCO Knowledge Academy, WCO Fellowship Programme, various WCO Accreditation Workshops, WCO Time Release Study Workshop, WCO Strategic Planning Workshop, WCO Rules of Origin and Advance Rulings Workshop.

A near future engagement of the Jamaica Customs Agency is the WCO Mercator Programme, which aims to assist governments worldwide to implement trade facilitation measures, including the WTO TFA, in a uniform manner, through the use of WCO instruments and tools. Other future and current capacity building engagements the JCA will participate in include the human resource boosting Leadership and Management Development Programme (LMPD), WCO e-learning platform CLiCK! (Customs Learning and Knowledge Community), the Virtual Customs Orientation Academy (VCOA) and various scholarship programmes.

Other key areas of focus for the WCO’s CBC include building capacity in integrity, in order to adopt new methods and develop new tools to combat corruption and promote integrity; and gender equality and diversity. Gender equality and diversity is an area being given keen interest by WCO Members, resulting in the WCO’s participation in the “Women and Trade International Forum,” organized by the European Commission in Brussels. The Forum gathered policymakers, private stakeholders, and civil society organizations with the aim of promoting inclusive trade policies to promote women’s economic empowerment.

A Virtual Working Group on Gender Equality and Diversity is to be launched by the WCO Secretariat with the objective of gathering best practices on Gender Equality and Diversity initiatives implemented by Members and promoting the exchange of information in this field. Further, a special section of the WCO website has also been devoted to this topical issue. It is expected that work will continue under the CBC on these two very important areas, to the benefit of the Members, particularly Members from Developing and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), including Jamaica.

 

 

 

Jamaica Customs Improves Efficiency – C27 (Yellow) Form Now made Electronic

Jamaica Customs Improves Efficiency – C27 (Yellow) Form Now made Electronic


 

The Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) advises that effective Thursday, February 1, 2018, the Agency will be automating its processes which require the use of the C27 form, also known as the Unaccompanied Baggage Declaration or, ‘yellow form’.

This will allow for more efficient processing of passengers who have unaccompanied baggage. As at this date, hard copies of the ‘yellow form’ will no longer be issued to passengers.

Notwithstanding this procedural change, the Agency wishes to further advise that adult passengers 18 years and older, will still receive their US$500 duty free allowance on personal and household effects, not for resale or commercial use.  This change does not affect how Customs deals with the application and validity of this allowance.

It is important that passengers with unaccompanied baggage indicate this to the Customs Officer, prior to the examination of their luggage.

Additionally, passengers must present their Passport/Immigration Kiosk Receipt, at the point of clearance.

 

 

 

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Jamaica Customs Agency

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