The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has reminded the public that using uncustomed vehicles was illegal and called for due diligence before purchasing such vehicles.
An uncustomed vehicle is one that has not gone through the acceptable customs processes or one that full duties have not been paid.
Mr Justice Njornam Magah Yadjayime, a Supervisor at the Vehicle Valuation Unit of the Customs Technical Services Bureau giving the advice in an interaction with the media advised prospective vehicle buyers to check with the any of the Customs offices across the country to confirm whether the vehicle was customed or not before making any payment.
He also urged car dealers or owners with uncustomed vehicles in their possession to submit them to Customs for due diligence, reiterating that the usage of uncustomed vehicles was illegal and punishable by law.
"Indeed, it has come to the notice of the Authority that many Ghanaians use such vehicles and the Authority through Customs is embarking on a strong sensitization mission while ensuring that culprits are apprehended immediately," he said.
Mr Yadjayime said such uncustomed vehicles ended up in the public often through illegal importation, saying, "for instance, somebody goes to Togo, with the thought that vehicles are cheaper there, and because our borders are porous, are able to find their way into our country through unapproved routes."
According to him the existing ECOWAS regime which permitted free movement of persons and goods had inadvertently enabled the act, explaining that people travelling were entitled to use their vehicles in the ECOWAS destination for a period of 90 days for private vehicles, and 15 days for commercial ones.
He said even though Ghana's laws permited period extensions per application to the Commissioner General, some people abused the system, and ended up contributing to the number of uncustomed vehicles in Ghana.
He revealed that, some of them after expiration try to look for a declaration of a car that went through the system, scan the documents, the chassis number, and other details of the vehicle before selling it, a situation that led to prospective buyers buying wrong vehicles without knowing.
He added that others went through the transit regime to divert cars bound for other countries in the sub-region and some vehicles also ended up in the uncustomed category, when a detection of discrepancies bordering on the non-full duty payment before release which he said could be as a result of inaccurate duty calculations with respect to age, value and engine capacity among others.
Mr. Yadjayime said Customs was sealing loopholes in the system, which included; having in its database vehicles imported temporarily through the various legal channels, therefore failure to leave within the allowed period would result in a seizure.
He said even though they do not have a preventive task force picking such vehicles, they were able to detect those that had the chassis number tampered with, to conform with those that cleared by customs, and detecting full duties were paid on a vehicle with a genuine chassis.
He noted that retrieval of such seized vehicles would be preceded by payment of full duties and penalties, saying "you have a 30-day duration to apply for restoration, when Commissioner grants that restoration, you pay the duty on it and pay a penalty, then you can pick up the vehicle for registration."