Blank Invoices

          The penal provisions for importing or producing blank invoices going forward will be much different to the past.

          About 18 years ago I was participating in practical Customs training for passenger baggage searches. The training was based at JIA (Johannesburg International Airport), now ORTIA (OR Tambo International Airport).

          My training partner and I were being monitored by the instructor when opening passenger baggage one morning. My partner came across an original BOL (Bill of Lading) in one gentleman’s baggage. Because I was based at a coastal region I was familiar with reading BOL. As a result, we uncovered several containers of fake goods at a nearby premises. In addition, we found a booklet of blank invoices.

          It is illegal to import or to produce blank invoices which are capable of being completed. Blank or incomplete invoices are seeing to be utilised for fraudulent activities.

          At JIA that morning, we proceeded to issue a penalty of R 100 for every page of blank invoice found. There were 38 pages in total. The blank invoices were seized and later destroyed.

          There is a lot more to this story, but you get the point.

          The penal provisions for importing or producing blank invoices is a Category 1 offence in terms of the Customs Control Act.

          In particular, the new penal provisions are imprisonment or a fine not exceeding R 1 million. The new legislation also provides for an ‘additional’ penalty not exceeding three times the monetary benefit gained or to be gained from using them.

          Would you believe, the gentleman who we had penalised at JIA that morning attempted to bribe another Customs Officer to get the blank pages back. This all after being penalised R 3,800 and with several containers being seized. This was a lot of money 18 years ago.

          The penalties going forward appear to be more in line with the level of criminal activity, if engaged in. 

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