Customs in Dong Thap Province: Proposing solutions to resolve challenges in handling cases with criminal indications

VCN - In practice, there are clear criminal violations that fall under the jurisdiction of customs authorities for prosecution, but the initiation of legal proceedings faces difficulties for various reasons. The Dong Thap Customs Department proposed that the competent authorities address these challenges.
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Dong Thap Customs is checking smuggled cars. Photo: T.Hoa
Dong Thap Customs is checking smuggled cars. Photo: T.Hoa

According to the Dong Thap Customs Department, during the process of handling administrative violations with clear criminal indications, there have been several challenges that need to be addressed. For instance, there have been cases of clear criminal violations falling within the jurisdiction of customs authorities, but initiating legal proceedings has been difficult for various reasons. These reasons include objective behaviors as stipulated in Article 10 and Article 13, such as not declaring or improperly declaring foreign currency or Vietnamese currency in cash, transporting goods without documentation within the customs territory, involving foreign nationals, necessitating the temporary detention of suspects, requiring extensive investigation time for clarification, and preventing suspects from fleeing across borders. Additionally, there have been cases where the competent authorities have acted based on reports of criminal offenses, but in reality, the cases fell within the scope of customs inspection and monitoring, with criminal indications, necessitating a request for criminal prosecution under Article 62 of the Administrative violations handling law.

Furthermore, according to the Dong Thap Customs Department, customs authorities have the initial investigative authority as prescribed in Article 2 of Article 9 and Article 33 of the Law on the Organization of Criminal Investigation Agencies. However, in practice, these authorities have faced difficulties due to limited jurisdiction. For example, when inviting individuals with indications of violations to cooperate in investigations, they may not comply, and there are no effective sanctions to compel their participation based on the customs authorities' invitation.

As per the provisions of Article 88 of the 2014 Customs Law and Chapter III of Decree No. 01/2015/ND-CP dated January 2, 2015, detailing the customs territory's scope of activities and responsibilities for coordination in combating smuggling and illegal cross-border transportation of goods (as amended and supplemented in Decree No. 12/2018/ND-CP dated January 23, 2018), cases of smuggling and illegal cross-border transportation of goods and currency occurring within the customs territory fall under the jurisdiction of the customs authorities. However, there have been cases where other agencies have carried out these investigations without proper coordination or transfer of jurisdiction to customs authorities, despite customs authorities' requests and explanations.

The differentiation between cases where taxes exceed VND200 million, through specialized inspection conclusions, post-clearance audits, and so on, to determine whether they should be handled criminally or administratively based on current regulations, remains unclear and can lead to confusion regarding the responsibilities of the executing officers. Additionally, cases involving the seizure of more than 1,500 foreign cigarette packs in the absence of the owner should be transferred to the police authorities for criminal proceedings and further investigation under current regulations. However, in most cases, the ownership cannot be determined, leading to extended durations and financial challenges for control measures.

Based on the actual situation, the Dong Thap Customs Department proposed and recommended that, in cases with indications of criminal activity (based on the value of the seized items, vehicles, the amount of tax evasion, and the use of counterfeit documents), the provisions of Customs Authorities conducting exchanges with the prosecuting authorities according to Article 15 of the Guidelines for the Procedure for Administrative Violation Sanctions and Resolution of Complaints about Administrative Violations in the Customs Sector issued together with Decision No. 166/QD-TCHQ dated January 18, 2021, by the General Department of Customs should continue to be implemented.

Additionally, regarding the deadline for processing ownerless seized goods and vehicles, as stipulated in Article 126, Paragraph 4, of the Administrative Violations Handling Law amended and supplemented in 2020, it is prescribed that in cases where the violator, owner, manager, or lawful user cannot be identified, it is necessary to announce twice in the public media; after the expiration of one year from the date of the second announcement, if the violator, owner, manager, or lawful user does not come forward, the competent authority must make a confiscation decision.

According to this regulation, the deadline for making a confiscation decision extends to one year before a processing plan can be proposed. Implementing the processing plan after approval also takes a considerable amount of time. This regulation has caused many difficulties in the management and preservation of confiscated goods because temporary storage facilities are limited, the quality of the seized items deteriorates, storage costs increase, and it requires significant management effort. In practice, for cases of ownerless violations, almost no one comes forward after the expiration of the announcement period. The owners of these violations never come forward because they are aware that claiming the items would result in both confiscation and administrative penalties, which could lead to increased fines or criminal prosecution.

By Le Thu/ Ha Thanh

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