Customs intercepts over $8.5K in undeclared merchandise

(Office of the Governor) — Director of Customs Jose Mafnas said that, in the past month, the agency had seized various undeclared items including electronic equipment, liquor, cigarettes, construction tools, cosmetics, and clothing.

“When we intercept undeclared items, we ensure that appropriate taxes are paid. Deterring these actions, in addition to intercepting illegal substances and halting such activities are crucial to customs operations and revenue collections. Consistent training throughout the years has enhanced our ability to detect concerns with imported goods,” Mafnas said.

Secretary of Finance Larrisa Larson pointed out that revenue collection over the last fiscal year increased by more than $2 million and that the department expects detection efforts to continue this momentum.

“Last year, in collaboration with the Oceania Customs Organization, officer training and detection of commodities has improved. At the same time, we’ve re-evaluated our fines and sanctions to ensure fair trade and commerce. From month to month, these search and seizures add up, and I commend our team for keeping this up,” Larson said.

Mafnas stated that the total value of the undeclared items is estimated at about $8,531, but added that it is only the beginning.

“Customs is steadfast in its mission to facilitate trade while safeguarding the CNMI and continues to issue sanctions to the importers of the undeclared items. We are improving our policies and regulations, and we will continue to increase our partnerships and knowledge base,” Mafnas shared.

Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres noted that the consistent collaboration and training to bring officers up to international standards has been fruitful, while reiterating the need to continue addressing border security and adopting best practices in the region.

“Our officers have maintained their diligence and these small successes add up and continue to benefit the economy while helping ensure fairness to all our businesses. I am very pleased that Customs service regulations were updated and adopted last November to include other luxury commodities. These updated definitions, exemptions, inspection procedures, and renewed penalties for undervaluation of products will improve customs services, community safety and border security in the long run,” Governor Torres said.