GRA Commissioner of Customs fires back at Special Prosecutor over Labianca report
The Commissioner of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Colonel (Rtd.) Kwadwo Damoah, has taken swipe at the report by the Office of the Special Prosecutor implicating his office in corruption-related acts involving Labianca Company Limited.
Speaking at a Customs Division Management Retreat in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, Col. Damoah said of the report: “If you read it very well, there is nothing in it. It is hollow.”
He also indicated underlying friction between him and the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyabeng.
“I even sent people to go and tell him [Kissi Agyabeng] that he is a small boy. I am older than him,” Col. Damoah said.
“If he attempts to destroy me, it won’t be easy for him. People have tried it. I have survived, and this one too, I will survive.”
The Commissioner believes the report is meant to tarnish his reputation following his refusal to second one of his men, one Mr. Akrugu, to the office of the Special Prosecutor.
“He [Akrugu] deals with tariffs and valuation and therefore, I cannot second him to the office of the Special Prosecutor because he has a primary role to play in customs.”
Col. Damoah said Mr. Akurugu subsequently resigned, joined the Special Prosecutor and made allegations against him.
The focus of the story has been on a Council of State member, Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, who owns Labianca Company and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).
She was accused of allegedly using her position to get a favourable decision from the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, leading to a reduction in her company’s tax liabilities.
The Special Prosecutor has since recovered GHS 1 million from Labianca.
The money was recovered as a shortfall of revenue arising from the issuance of the unlawful customs advance, meant to be duties paid to the state following the importation of the frozen foods.
Col. Damoah’s role in Labianca’s actions
A Deputy Commissioner of Customs in charge of Operations, Joseph Adu Kyei, was cited for issuing what unlawful customs advance ruling in the Special Prosecutor’s report.
This led to the reduction of the values of intended imports between a range of 5 percent and 10 percent
below the benchmark values.
The ruling was said to have been approved by Col. Damoah and did not appear to have been brought to the notice of the Commissioner-General, according to the report.
The report also noted that Col. Damoah “acknowledged the disingenuity of the outcome by admitting that the applicants did not meet the legal requirements for the issuance of customs advance ruling.”
Though Col. Damoah distanced himself from the wrongdoing, the Special Prosecutor found that he gave
his “tacit approval”.
“Indeed, Mr. Adu Kyei’s decision would not have passed muster but for Colonel (Rtd.) Damoah’s apparent approval. The halfhearted seeming recantation is unhappily belated and does not absolve Colonel (Rtd.) Damoah of ultimate responsibility for the apparently contrived decision,” the report indicated.