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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New System to Ease Customs Process

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An electronic system to quickly clear imports and raise collection rates of customs duties is being introduced in Moscow this week with the intention of extending it nationwide, but professionals warn that no electronic system can control corruption.

And while some privately run Moscow customs terminals have been told by the State Customs Committee to test the new system, the committee has not released any estimates of what collection targets should be, and sources of funding the installment of the new system nationwide are still unclear.

The nation’s system of allowing imports to cross borders and then to let customs terminals, many of them private deep in the hinterland, clear the imports has proved a temptation to corruption that many importers and customs officials cannot resist.

Bribes are paid to customs officers who clear expensive electronic goods and furniture as spare parts, which are subject to lower tariffs. Imports often disappear on their way to terminals.

In the first six months of this year, 67,700 violations of import laws were recorded and 2,097 criminal cases were opened, 11 percent more than for the same period last year, Interfax reported in July.

Vyacheslav Repin, head of modern computer technologies at the St. Petersburg software firm EKSI-Soft, said the Aist-RT21 program to be installed at customs terminals in the Moscow region is a client-server close circuit interface that links customs computers at the borders, regional computers and the Central Customs Department server.

Olga Gavrilova, financial director at Moscow’s Viba customs terminal, a recipient of the system that is to start operating this week, said, "This system is secure and it serves our clients really quickly."

She said that a trial of the system last week showed the clearance time for simple items was sometimes just 30 minutes.

"In the past, clearance sometimes took up to 10 days," she said.

Gavrilova added that the Aist system provides information about imported goods at the customs terminal just seconds after the cargo is registered at the border.

"Aist has shown good results in our region after being applied for a few years here," said Dmitry Kokko, spokesman for the Northwest Customs Department, in a telephone interview from St. Petersburg. However, he failed to give any figures on the improvement in tax collection Aist had brought.

Anatoly Zhdannikov, clearance officer with Vinlund International Freight Forwarders, said that using computers had drawbacks as well as benefits.

"We all know they crash," he said.

"The human factor [customs officers] is still there," Zhdannik added. "Whatever they feed into the computer system is up to their conscience."

EKSI-Soft’s Repin agreed. "Living on this planet, we know there is no perfection," he said. "But I think that our product will make a dramatic change to what we have now if introduced at least at the most significant customs nationwide that clear the majority of imports."