By Moustafa Fathy
Hussein Abdel Mohsen, Undersecretary of the Minister of Finance and head of the Central Administration of the Office of Customs Affairs, explained that new regulations made the penalty for evading customs and attempted evasion to include confiscation and jail time.
The new law also considers skirting temporary release regulations as customs evasion. Mohsen noted, however, that the new law makes a distinction between evasion and other types of violations. He added that the new law includes clear definitions and terms, new sections on risk management, auditing, advanced release, and division of fees. Mohsen hopes that the entry points to Egypt such as ports and airports would become merely passageways and not storage facilities.
The new law simplifies customs procedures and lowers duties, seeking to speed up the rate at which goods can be moved into Egypt. It also makes provisions to allow importers to submit documentation and duties before shipments arrive and to secure pre-arrival release of goods.
Customs exemptions were also included in the new law after having been part of a separate, independent law since1986.
The new law is characterised by flexibility, according to Mohsen, containing general provisions for areas open for amendments and allows for some freedom in implementation based on the circumstances. He stressed that that the new law contains a number of advantages for investors, emphasising the role of the private sector in economic development and simplifying procedures for importers to obtain warehouse space. He said that rationalising and simplifying the customs system is an important component of developing the national economy. Mohsen further explained that the new amendments resolve a number of problems in the 2005 customs law, which included weak oversight and a number of loopholes that customs evaders exploited to their benefit.
The previous law had lowered the penalty for customs evasion, removed any penalty for attempted evasion, and did not employ confiscation except for prohibited items. Because of the aforementioned loopholes and as Egypt moves towards a free market economy, the new law seeks to achieve effective monitoring, combat customs evasion, and prevent unlawful importation of goods.
The new regulations are in line with Egypt’s current economic needs as well as international trade agreements and standards.