Posts Tagged ‘customs’

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E-customs from 1st August – Ukraine

May 18, 2016

It seems like a long time ago that an entry appeared regarding the corruption and/or smuggling issues at Odessa’s ports.  Indeed it is almost a year ago.

The entry highlighted a few notable issues and was by no means in depth with regard to the existing corruption scams or potential corruption opportunities.  In fact it stuck to the blindingly obvious problems rather than detailing the “very clever” scams – “So to a less than erudite, nor exhaustive, list of areas to cast a discerning eye over would seem appropriate – “broad brush” as they are.

Bribes at the ports are easily achievable.  It is not hard for a customs official to turn a blind eye to the fact that a manifest does not cover all the imported/exported goods in the cargo.  It is not difficult to ignore transit goods making their way into domestic supply chains.  To reclassify/wrongly classify goods is not more than a slip of the pen.  Naturally speeding up clearance can be achieved given the right incentives.

Manipulating the country of origin and any special arrangements with those nations is not difficult.   A cargo missing inspection or having a “relaxed inspection”, the under-invoicing of cargo, release bonds with insufficient (or non-existent) supporting documentation, influencing audit outcomes,  and perhaps the most prevalent of “rent-seeking” options – pre-declaration and the use of “fashionable brokers”.

“Fashionable brokers” are the agents that insure no delays, inspections etc for a fee and can be found in Odessa.

There is then the issue of the private companies that control the weight bridges, container ports, and transport infrastructure in and out of the port sides.  The corruption issues are not all related to the State customs and borders agencies.

No differently from the new “Police” whom receive better than average pay compared to their counterparts of commensurate service, there is a need to recognise that in restructuring the customs and borders services at the ports of Odessa, it is highly unlikely that officials will wholeheartedly support any major reforms that remove opportunities for ‘rent-seeking’ and improve transparency – unless they are combined with meaningful improvements in their conditions of employment.”

Since then Yulia Marushevska (and team behind her) have been appointed in Odessa to fight the good fight and tackle the vested interests that have historically grown wealthy from the illicit goings-on.  Among those vested interests are local public figures and businessmen, those within the State Fiscal Service, the SBU and a cash flow to Kyiv to “keep everybody sweet”.

Her efforts have seen the introduction of e-customs at Odessa Port, a swifter and fairer customs service for the users of the port – or at least the State owned and run part of the port.

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Her efforts have also seen her receive 3 written reprimands from the Head of the State Fiscal Service Roman Nasirov who has tried to obstruct the efforts to reduce the corruption and prevent open and transparent staffing solutions.

Indeed Mr Nasirov is not upon the Christmas Card list of two regional governors – Messrs Moskal and Saakashvili for his less than helpful disposition in tackling corruption and less than ethical personnel appointments into positions within the customs and SFS institutions.

It is no secret that the dismissal of Ms Marushevska was a priority second only to that of former-Regional Prosecutor Davit Sakvarelidze for the local elite with dubious/nefarious vested interests, as well as those within certain State institutions (and their unseen masters).  Ms Marushevska (and team) have been fighting what until recently appeared to be a losing the war with those in Kyiv, even if beginning to win their small battle.

However, Prime Minsiter Groisman visited Odessa on 17th May and spoke with Ms Marushevska and Governor Saakashvili, and visited the ports – among other things.

Purely by coincidence (cynicism), the following day an announcement was made that the entirety of the Ukrainian customs system would move across to the Odessa trialed e-customs system with effect from 1st August.  A significant step in the right direction (on the presumption this announcement is actually implemented nationally on 1st August).

Further, for Ms Marushevska, it appears that all 3 reprimands issued by the obstructive Mr Nasirov will be cancelled – As a result of the visit of Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman to Odessa, the Control Agency cancelled the freeze on construction of the new Open Customs Area terminal. Also, by the end of the week agreement must be reached regarding all personnel issues that have been blocked by SFS leadership: dismissal unscrupulous officials, agreement on new people and announcement of a competition for key leadership positions.

The Prime Minister also expressed support for the introduction of the new ASYCUDA software.

Positively assessing our reforms at Odessa Customs, the head of government has promised to cancel the reprimands given to me by SFS chief Roman Nasirov. It turns out that you can move quickly to reform, if you choose to.” – Facebook Yulia Marushevska 17th May 2016

Thus, should those reprimand cancellations materialise, those vested interests attempting to remove her from post would appear to have suffered something of a setback.

A reader may deduce that whatever dubious money flows Prime Minister Groisman may or may not receive, they seemingly do not come from corrupt customs scams – certainly as far as Odessa is concerned.  A reader may also ponder therefore, and possibly draw conclusions, as to why his predecessor failed to take such simple actions and also failed to support Ms Marushevska (and team).

As stated in several recent entries, Prime Minister Groisman may well be stuck with Mr Nasirov as head of the SFS (at least for the next few months) as part of a grubby political deal to insure parliamentary support from unexpected places during some very important recent votes (including his own appointment), but it is also becoming clear that he has also found “pressure points” upon those same unexpectedly supportive parliamentary places sufficient to stay the manufactured departing of Ms Marushevska (and team) and undo their efforts via Mr Nasirov – all of which (hopefully) does not bode particularly well for Mr Nasirov in the long term.

We shall see whether e-customs goes live nationally on 1st August – or not.  If it does, it is a significant step in tacking the opportunities that are currently present for corruption within customs and the SFS.

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Sending the right message the wrong way? – Groisman

May 7, 2016

Since the beginning of the year, intermittently entries have appeared regarding the valiant battle being fought at Odessa Customs by Yulia Marushevska (and the team behind her), against vested interests.

Those ad hoc entries consistently containing prose along the lines of – “Ms Marushevska is already clearly being pressured by the old entrenched personalities, as well as the nefarious among the SBU and SFS that have always benefited from the very lucrative and nefarious scams that historically defined the Odessa ports – and thus looks favourite.”

Indeed, for those interested, the Facebook page of Yulia Marushevska describes a daily battle – particularly of late with the State Fiscal Service and Roman Nasirov, an individual seemingly determined to frustrate and obstruct reform at every opportunity.  She has managed to gather 3 official reprimands from Mr Nasirov, and should she survive long enough, there will probably be more.

If a reader ponder why Mr Nasirov remains in control of the State Fiscal Service whilst seemingly actively seeking to keep enormous illicit financial flows alive from which some in Kyiv, the SFS, the SBU, together with local vested interests have historically profited, as stated in a very recent post related to the apparent inability to sack senior officials – “Indeed, how people such as Roman Nasirov remain head of the State Fiscal Service may also perplex a reader (though a cynical reader may believe that he remains in place as part of a grubby political deal to insure sufficient votes for the new Cabinet from otherwise hostile political positions).”

Indeed both President Poroshenko, and Prime Minister Groisman immediately upon his appointment, received an open letter from Yulia Marushevska to support Odessa Customs (notwithstanding persistent lobbying to do so from Governor Saakashvili) – and also a request to remove Mr Nasirov.  Whether or not Mr Nasirov will be removed, considering the quote immediately above, remains to be seen.

If so, would he go out in similar fashion to Viktor Shokin when he sacked Davit Sakvarelidze in his few final hours in post, by attempting to fire Yulia Marushevska as his swan song.  Honours even (or equal losses) between functionaries/beneficiaries of the Old Guard vis a vis the reformers?

Clearly the removal of Mr Nasirov would not be immediate if, as insinuated above, his retaining that position was a requirement for political support (votes) in appointing the new Cabinet.  Further those votes may yet be required to see the necessary constitutional changes regarding the judiciary over the 300 (+) voting line – A vote due in the Verkhovna Rada by mid-July.

However, Mr Groisman, if he wishes to be perceived as a successful Prime Minister cannot ignore the rampant corruption within the SFS and Customs Service.  Internal regional governance and external supporters will not allow the issue to be ignored.

Whatever a reader may think of Mr Groisman, to be perceived a failure will not be upon his agenda.

Lo, the Prime Minister has fired a public shot across the bow of the Customs Service and the State Fiscal Service – “You have three months to restore order within Ukrainian Customs.  If you have a political will, I support you – if not, write the statement of resignation today or otherwise be swept away.”

Two clear goals were set – to increase the State revenues and work honestly.  (In other words significantly reduce the rampant levels of corruption in which you are engaged and allow more to reach the State coffers.).

Thus far there is little wrong with the message.

A reader my ponder whether a 3 month period to regain control of two State institutions is both necessary and/or possible whilst simultaneously leaving in senior posts those who have (often deliberately) failed to reduce the rampant levels of corruption within the institutions that they lead – but again that period is perhaps politically sufficient to then be able to justify the less than timely removal of personnel left in post previously required to garner political support from otherwise hostile quarters when the new Cabinet was elected, and also see constitution changing votes gather enough support in the meantime.

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Unfortunately the Prime Minister then made a statement that may be perceived by his critics as something approaching poor judgement.  He went on to state that the SFS and Customs creating and participating in grey or black schemes at a time when there is a war in the east and people have no money to buy medicine is “looting and a crime“.

He is of course right, it is “looting” (to use his term) and a crime” – but it is looting and a crime whether there is a war in the east, and whether the population can afford medicine, or not.  If Ukraine were a prosperous nation and peace was ever-present in the neighbourhood, in no way would that make the rampant corruption within the SFS and Customs any less “looting and a crime“.

Thus his critics may perceive this as being somewhat less than robust regarding corruption and something similar to an inferred temporary moratorium and/or request for little more than reasonable parameters upon nefariousness.

Whatever perception a reader may have, it is perhaps too soon to act as judge, jury and executioner on a Groisman premiership.

Indeed, the pressure to deal with Customs and the SFS internally of the governing class is not limited to pleas from Yulia Marushevska or rants from Governor Saakashvili.  Transcarpathian Governor Gennady Moskal has now threatened to resign due to senior appointments within his region’s Customs Service that in his view does little but enhance the interests of the cigarette smuggling mafia.  No doubt neighbouring supportive States also deliver such a message when deprived of domestic VAT due to huge quantities of smuggled Ukrainian cigarettes.

Naturally any response to Governor Moskal’s concerns (to avoid his resignation) will be led by Roman Nasirov of the SFS, the subject of complaints from both Odessa Customs and Governor, and an individual who clearly already suffers from a lack of confidence from the Transcarpathian Governor too.  Mr Nasirov by inference is also the man that the Prime Minister has given 3 months to sort his institutional act out, whilst undoubtedly Prime Minister Groisman has also been provided with weighty tomes regarding issues and evidence against Mr Nasirov .

Few will thus have much faith in Mr Nasirov ever sorting out the SFS or Customs – but just how difficult will he prove to be to remove – and perhaps as importantly, when is it most timely to do so from a PM Groisman viewpoint?

Is Prime Minister Groisman sending the right message the wrong way – or is he sending the right message in the only way possible – for now?

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EU/Ukraine Mission DCFTA Workshop – 10th April 2013

April 7, 2013

For those of you who happen to be in Brussels on Wednesday 10th April, the Ukrainian Mission to the EU is holding a DCFTA workshop for business at the Press Club Brussels, 95 Rue Froissart, 1040 from 1500 – 1630.

Key speakers are the two main negotiators of the DCFTA Messrs V Piatnytskyi and P Cuisson.

Some may consider this somewhat hopeful given there are doubts the AA and DCFTA will be signed in Vilnius in November – however with the impending seemingly immediate release of Yuri Lutsenko, perhaps not.  His release will go a long way towards the “substantial progress” the EU has demanded over the issue of “selective justice”.  Possibly just far enough, as nobody really expects Tymoshenko to be released prior to 2016 and equally nobody expects much in the way of ratification before that date either due to German, French and EU parliamentary elections in 2013, 2014 and then Ukrainian presidential elections in 2015.

Who knows?  As is so often the case in Ukraine, it just manages to do enough by the eleventh hour – by hook or by crook – be it delivering a good Euro 2012 tournament on an international scale, or the tradesmen finishing and leaving a new shopping centre two hours before it is due to open domestically.

Whether the same time and effort will be spend within Ukraine making the same explanations to business and entrepreneurs  remains to be seen.  Perhaps it is felt better to leave that until any signing actually happens?  That said, signed or not signed, I fully anticipate mutually beneficial parts of the DCFTA to be implemented anyway – as is always the case with what is considered politically expedient to all concerned.  After all the framework is already agreed and initialed, sealing the framework.

I have to say, that despite my invitation to this event, I will not be traveling to Brussels for the sake of a 90 minute workshop – particularly one that is more focused towards the Europeans looking at the opportunities the DCFTA offers in Ukraine, rather than one aimed at Ukrainians and the opportunities it offers looking west.

If a traveling roadshow passes through Odessa attempting to educate on the specifics of the DCFTA and opportunities it offers Ukrainians looking west – then I will surely attend – just to let you know what was said!

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EU/Ukraine DCFTA final text initialed

July 21, 2012

Whilst almost everyone would be forgiven for thinking that the EU-Ukrainian DCFTA agreement has either already been initialed and dealt with some time ago, or that it has simply ground to a halt over EU concerns regarding selective prosecutions and shabby trial procedures, naturally they would be wrong.

Such incredibly complicated agreements, even when initialed to some public fanfare, have an awful lot of technical bits and pieces that still require the devil of the detail putting into print and being agreed.

Thus this has been the caase between the EU and Ukraine ever since the public initialing of the DCFTA some time ago.

However, on 19th July, the technical bits and pieces were finally agreed and initialed in Brussels between both sides – to absolutely no fanfare whatsoever – other than a short statement from those involved confirming that it had indeed occurred.

There never has been much glory or acknowledgement for the boiler room staff in such matters, garlands and public platitudes being reserved for those who are figureheads is the traditional way.

Anyway, it is now done – almost.  Off to the translators within the EU for it to be put into the 22 languages used, and then be circulated to the 27 Member States.

As the devil is so oft in the detail that was only agreed and initialed a few days ago, any of my Brussels Quarter readers who may happen upon a copy of this, do feel free to share!

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New Customs Rules effective 1st June 2012

June 4, 2012

Yes, yes, I know!

Today is 4th June and I’m telling you about changes coming into force 4 days ago.

Well six months ago I told you about the new law so I did tell you and you have simply forgotten in amongst the torrent of tedious ruminations you have had to sit and read since then.  And I have been moving and seen more cardboard boxes than can be found housing the homeless under the bridges in London.

So, better late than never, in English, the new, current, latest customs allowances for those coming to Ukraine. – What?  It still says 2009?  A State website still displaying old data for what is a major change to legislation?  Well keep your eye on it and it will catch up eventually no doubt – It may even get updated by the time you finish reading this entry.

OK – Well here (in a language most will have to run through Google translate as I am still unpacking and don’t have time to do it for you) is the Ukraine_Customs_Requirements_Rus from a Kyiv based travel agent.

Yes, OK, I apologise for letting a little thing like moving  getting this information to you in a language you understand in an untimely manner.

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Customs changes to personal allowances – Ukraine

November 11, 2011

Apologies for this and the previous post seeming to be public service announcements, but some of you dear readers actually read this blog for hard information and not my ruminations on the state of the nation.

In keeping with the public service side of this blog, with regards to the new rules if you click here you will be directed to the personal new allowances relating to customs and excise in Ukraine.

Enjoy!

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