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DPS raids business to seize Customs documents

Officers from DPS Criminal Investigation Division and Internal Affairs Unit accompanied by Deputy Police Commissioner Leseiau Laumoli executed a search warrant yesterday morning at Samoa Marketing, located on the ground floor of the Fagatogo Square.


Samoa News understands the search warrant was for paperwork, particularly customs declaration forms for incoming containers with merchandise for the business.


According to Samoa News sources, the investigation was launched after police discovered, during a raid earlier this year, questionable paperwork at the Customs Office in Fagatogo.


The paperwork confiscated yesterday pertained to invoices from Samoa Marketing that were offset by Customs in lieu of Samoa Marketing paying excise taxes, which— under the law — is allowable.


(A.S.C.A. 11.0102 Setoff Against Money Owed Government says: “The Treasurer of American Samoa may deduct from any amount, which the government owes to any person the amount of any tax, license fee or other sum, which such person owes to the government”.)


However, according to investigators, the probe is focused on items that were offset but did not go through the proper procurement process.


For example, according to Samoa News sources, there are items that were released to Customs and not tagged by the Office of Property Management (which is the standard procedure for all government assets - including equipment such as laptops, computers, scanners, desks, chairs, etc.).


According to the source, the question then becomes, “How many items are being taken home for personal use? Because as far as the government is concerned, these items don’t exist because there is no paperwork ...”


But a Customs agent says that, as far as he knows, everything for ASG that comes in through Samoa Marketing is tagged and accounted for and sources at Customs state that they have been instructed to offset certain items for certain companies and agencies to which ASG owes money.


A source close to the case says the only thing that is allegedly presented to the Treasury Department itself is a receipt for what the company is paying in cash or by check and it does not include paperwork for the items that were used as an offset for excise taxes.


Samoa News contacted an official at Samoa Marketing who stated that their company is doing nothing illegal, as offsetting is allowable under the law and they engage in the same practice with other private companies, in addition to ASG.


According to the company official, ASG owes Samoa Marketing an estimated $150,000 and offsetting is the only way they can collect on their debts.


The official told Samoa News that when equipment and supplies are needed, ASG takes the items from Samoa Marketing without up-front payment (on credit) and instead of paying the company; Customs waives the duty and excise taxes for the company’s incoming shipments of merchandise to “offset” the debt.


He said offsetting is being conducted between them and Customs, at the discretion of the Treasury Department.


But police investigators say otherwise, claiming that the Treasury Department is not fully aware of what’s going on at Customs, and the issue is not a new one, as it goes back many years.