Written by Nikola MORAČA -09/05/2022
The Indirect Taxation Authority (ITA) of BiH could be shaken by a new big affair related to the “mysterious” disappearances of customs pliers, because everything points to the conclusion that there is organized crime in the background.
It is indicative that for the ITA BiH, but also for the security agencies in BiH, it is not disputable why, according to confirmed information from Inforadar, customs pliers “disappear” or why they “disappear” exclusively at one border crossing (Gradiška), or that they are reported missing by one of the suspects and fugitives in the action Pandora.
The public is little to completely unaware of the exceptional importance of customs pliers in the process of receiving and customs clearance of goods; namely, they are primarily used to seal the consignment in the truck, where the seal in all countries, without exception, means that what is stated in the import/export declaration – is in the cargo space of trucks, vans, containers or other means of transport.
Simply put, the one who has customs pliers can do whatever he wants with the cargo space, open and close it in several locations, and transport various goods to the final destination.
When one set of pliers disappears – it should and must represent a red alarm that things are happening that should not be, so if the institution works properly and in accordance with the law, it is first necessary to determine where they disappeared and inform all customs terminals and border crossings in the territory of the home country that those customs pliers have been put out of order.
However, this is not the case in BiH. Inforadar came across material evidence that the disappearance of the customs pliers was reported a few years later! What could have happened at that time – and what was happening, that is, what kind of goods could have been smuggled, who could have participated in it and to what extent – we can only guess.
It has been confirmed to Inforadar that the Gradiška Customs Office (CI), in recent years, has, on two occasions, reported the disappearance of customs pliers that have never been found. From the answers we received from the ITA BiH, it follows that those responsible were punished with only a fine (!), and that in the amount of the value of lost customs pliers.
PHOTO: Excerpt of a document on the established disappearance of customs pliers
“The Gradiška Customs Office, by its act of 29.11.2012 put the customs pliers number 260 out of use due to malfunctions. These pliers were not found and they were written off through the write-off of small inventory in 2012, and the equivalent of customs pliers in the amount of 147.21 KM was collected from the head of the Gradiška Customs Office. In the Gradiška Customs Office, in addition to the mentioned customs pliers, customs pliers number 281 were lost and put out of use on 24.07.2017, and the equivalent of the pliers was collected from the customs officer who last used the same”, the ITA answered Inforadar.
It is worth reminding that the head of the Gradiška Customs Office, who reported the “disappearance of the pliers”, Radovan Đurić, is a fugitive from justice in the Pandora operation (he was on the run for two months). We remind you that as part of the Pandora operation, conducted by members of the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA), Kemal Čauševć, former director of the ITA BiH, Zdravko Cvjetinović, current assistant director of the ITA for customs, and tens of other ITA officials were arrested.
Radovan Đurić (Photo CIN)
All were suspected (or accused) of organized crime related to tax and customs fraud, money laundering and abuse of position, which damaged BiH by more than two billion KM.
It was only in May last year that Čaušević was sentenced to nine years in prison by a first-instance verdict.
What happened to the remaining suspects who were under the scrutiny of the largest investigation into organized crime in BiH so far, is perhaps best illustrated by the sentence of former ITA BiH trade union president Mehmedalija Osmić, who pointed out billions (!) of KM worth of crime in this state institution.
” ‘Pandora’ was stopped and was never allowed to penetrate to the end of the crime that existed in BiH, and there were billions at various levels in question. The investigation was channelled and its goal was to protect the thieving gang that rules the country”, said Osmić.
THE ITA BIH “DOESN’T KNOW” HOW THE PLIERS DISAPPEARED
When it comes to “missing” customs pliers, those structures that have them in possession can without trouble smuggle what they want through the territory of BiH, even narcotics, and if they are in collusion with miserably paid customs officers, they can easily export the same goods to their final destinations in EU countries, because the shipment will not be checked by anyone in the countries of transit.
Photo illustration: The part that is sealed with customs pliers
The most tragic thing is that the security agencies in BiH, specifically the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA), are turning their heads away from this announced crime, while we are witnessing that BiH is becoming a serious transit route for drug groups that are smuggling narcotics in multiple directions.
This was confirmed by the answer we received from SIPA, which reads that this security agency “was never informed about any disappearance of customs pliers at the border crossings in BiH”.
According to the documentation in the possession of Inforadar, the Gradiška customs office borrowed customs pliers under number 260 on August 27, 2012, and the head of this office, Radovan Đurić, three months later informed the Customs Department of RC Banja Luka that he put the pliers out of use, due to an alleged technical malfunction.
However, the disputed customs pliers were properly kept in the state of fixed assets for 2013, and even 2014!
Photo: Documentation of the ITA BiH, part of the script of the Commission on the disappearance of customs pliers
Only on the regular annual census on December 31, 2015, the Commission determined a shortage of fixed assets, namely customs pliers imprint 260, inventory number pliers 2409076, with the head of CI Gradiška agreeing to “settle the damage” due to the disappearance of customs pliers in the amount of 147, 21 KM ?!
According to our sources, the Director of the ITA, Miro Džakula, formed a pro form commission in April 2016, with the task of establishing the facts regarding the established lack of customs pliers No. 260. However, the commission “failed” to determine how it came to the loss, that is, whether the pliers were lost, stolen, or by another way taken.
Later, the internal control of the ITA, acting in the control procedure, concluded that the same pliers were probably kept in a condition as defective, and then lost, since there is no evidence that they were officially written off?!
However, the Department of Internal Control, based on the act of the head of CI Gradiška on November 29, 2012, stated that measures were taken to prevent the misuse of customs pliers, and could not decide on the direction of determining responsibility, because there was doubt if there was indeed a shortage or disappearance of customs pliers imprint number 260.
In the Official Gazette of BiH No. 68/17, the Department for Business Services of the Regional Center of Banja Luka likewise declared invalid the customs pliers of imprint No. 281, inventory code 10-09-1097, for which the head of CI Gradiška, Radovan Đurić, was also in charge of use and storage.
CUSTOMS PLIERS SEAL SHIPMENTS
Our source from the ITA explains that each organizational unit of the ITA BiH is responsible for pliers with a three-digit code, and some customs offices have responsibility for more customs pliers. In them, usually, a metal customs seal is placed, which also has a plate part with the country code (BiH), and in the continuation of that plate part is a serrated part that is placed in the pliers. A customs rope is placed on this part and by pressing the pliers, the rope, which protects the contents of the shipment, is sealed or fixed in the metal wrapper of the seal, while the seal is imprinted with a three-digit mark.
In international transport and during customs clearance, that is, the entry of goods into a country and its transport until final unloading, this seal means that the truck has what is on the import/export documentation.
“The number and tag of seals are recorded in the customs transit report, and the inviolability of the seal and customs rope, and their compressions with data from transit reports, are a guarantee that the content of the shipment, that is, the goods in a particular transportation, whether it is a truck, a van, a van, container, package, tank or similar and which is reported at the border, are the same as one that arrives at the destination customs office in the interior, where customs clearance is done”, explains the source of Inforadar.
Or vice versa, in the case of export, that the goods cleared for export at the customs office are identical to those that appear at the border crossing when leaving the country.
More precisely, if criminal groups want to transport large quantities of drugs without hindrance, this is easily done with the help of “lost pliers”. Our source reminds that control is already weak in transit countries.
“If the documentation indicates that the destination is BiH, the countries of transit are all countries on the route from the exporting country, for example, Turkey, to BiH. You can load various goods on the truck that you report properly, and you also snatch a certain amount of drugs somewhere, send it to Banja Luka, for example, and time it so that your truck in BiH enters the night shift when it is dark, at a crossing that cannot be inspected at the border, and it is well known that most of the crossings in BiH are like this due to poor infrastructure. Let’s say that it is the Gradiška crossing and let’s say that the customs officer seals the shipment, because there is no possibility to unload it, and you and your friend open it, remove the content that is important to you, re-seal it with your seals from lost customs pliers and send to the destination office for customs clearance, as if nothing had happened,” explains our source.
It is similar in the opposite direction, that is during exportation.
“The truck is cleared for export with a delivery note for example to the Netherlands. On the way from the export office to the border crossing, insert drugs or whatever, seal it and send it further. It is to be expected that most countries of transit will only compare customs characteristics, that is, confirm that the intact customs rope and seal are listed on customs documents, eg 2 x 115, which means that there are two seals with imprint number 115 on the vehicle/container, and will proceed the vehicle to its destination in the Netherlands “, explains an insider from the ITA.
RECORD-BREAKING DRUG SEIZURE
An international investigation will determine whether the missing customs pliers are also responsible for the smuggling of hundreds of kilograms of skunk in recent years from BiH to Hungary.
This route would certainly not have been revealed even today if in October 2020, a truck driver (71) from BiH, who was driving bales of paper from Banja Luka to Slovakia, did not have a bizarre accident while unloading skunk at a gas station near Budapest. The BiH citizen fell into one of the bales of paper upside down while throwing out his skunk bags and thus remained stuck until the police arrived. It was this arrest of the BiH citizen that later led to a record-breaking seizure of skunk in Republika Srpska and an action codenamed “Storidž”.
Photo: Arrest of BiH truck driver in Hungary
The truck was officially sealed, and the customs declaration stated that it was transporting bales of paper. On the way from Banja Luka to the border crossing, the truck most likely stopped in Nova Topola, where smugglers threw bags with tens of kilograms of skunk into the cargo space, which has a value worth million in the EU. After they dropped the drugs, the truck was sealed again and sent to the border crossing.
Our source from the security agencies reveals that the smugglers could have used some of the missing customs pliers in order to cover up the shipment.
It follows from all this that the loss of customs pliers can only be due to classic negligence, but it is hard to believe. Putting everything in a broader context and a state institution ruled by severe corruption and shaken by strong scandals, it is very likely that the missing customs tongs are used by organized criminal groups to discretely and without disturbance smuggle various types of goods, narcotics and even people.