Government fines Win-Win over gold smuggling

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THE Government has charged Win Win mining company an administration fine after it tried to evade customs at the Honiara International Airport by smuggling 1.7 kilograms or $700,000 of pure gold in 2019.

According to Section 214 of Customs and Exercise Cap.121,  If any person imports or exports, or causes to be imported or exported, or attempts to import or export any goods concealed in any way, or packed in any package or parcel (whether there be any other goods in such package or parcel or not) in a manner calculated to deceive an officer, or any package containing goods not corresponding with the entry thereof, such package and the goods therein shall be forfeited, and such person shall incur a penalty of two hundred dollars, or treble the value of the goods contained in such package, at the election of the Comptroller.

Minister of Finance and Treasury, Harry Kuma told Parliament last week that smuggling of gold is a breach of Customs Act.

However, he said through Customs Act, it provides the Company to seek administrative settlement and which they did.

Kuma said through advice which can be done, purely based on economic reasons because the company just started work and given the important contribution of the company to the nation, especially during this difficult and challenging times like Covid 19 period, they decide to sort it out administratively.

However, Leader of Opposition Matthew Wale questioned the Ministry on how it handled the issue given its seriousness and how it was sorted out administratively without any criminal liability against company officers after what is clearly an intentional attempt to defraud the government and people.

In the meantime, the issue became a hot cake in the media when former Director of the Ministry of Mines Energy and Rural Electrification Nicholas Biliki exposed the export document details last year showing in 2019, 1.7 kilograms worth SBD700, 000 of pure gold was attempted to be smuggled out from the country by a Win Win Mining officer.

Biliki claimed the gold samples were intentionally spray-painted to look like ground samples for test analyses abroad.

Win Win hit back on Bilikiki for releasing the information too late and claimed he had some liabilities with the company as well.