Everyone Pays For Smuggling
By “Awake!” Correspondent In Nigeria
GOVERNMENT officers in an African country were surprised when a large container, supposedly full of milk cartons, turned out to be the hiding place of a Mercedes Benz automobile. Three customs officials were charged with accepting bribes to allow the car to be smuggled into the country.
Meanwhile, officials in China and Taiwan cracked down on a smuggling ring between fishing boat captains of the two countries. The Taiwanese fishermen were selling counterfeit copies of Parker Pens and Rolex watches, and the Chinese fishermen were paying for them with phoney gold bars that were really gilded lead!
In the United States, customs officials estimate that $3,000,000,000 worth of drugs is smuggled into Florida alone every year.
Smuggling is clearly a worldwide phenomenon. It is practiced by professional criminals, and by tourists anxious to “beat the system” by avoiding a few dollars in duty. The tourists may be smuggling a little liquor or clothing. The professionals smuggle coffee, drugs, weapons, ammunition, gold, diamonds, or whatever there is a market for.
Hollow Legs and False Coffins
Professional smugglers are both audacious and ingenious in their efforts. One African newspaper commented that smugglers in that part of the world invent new methods as fast as old ones are detected. Recent favorites include ‘false-bottom boxes, concealment of goods like jewels in soups, bread, in all sorts of food items and in coffins,’ as well as various parts of the human anatomy. Oriental smugglers have their tricks, too. In China a man’s artificial leg was crammed with smuggled watches! Another fellow had dozens of watches strapped around his waist.
Sophisticated smugglers in Florida’s drug market use fast, high-powered ships and planes. “Four-engine Constellations, for example, are replacing some twin-engine planes,” observes Time magazine.
In Asia, tourists are increasingly involved in smuggling items from Hong Kong into the Philippines. A favorite technique is to consign smuggled goods to fictitious persons.
Does It Really Hurt?
Returning from a visit to another country, have you been tempted to “forget” that a few taxable items were in your luggage? Many people have been. ‘The government taxes me to death anyway,’ they reason. ‘It won’t hurt anybody if I sneak a few items past the customs officials.’ But it does hurt.
This kind of smuggling is really a form of tax evasion. Are you a Christian? Then reflect on the advice given in the Bible to “render to all their dues, to him who calls for the tax, the tax.”—Rom. 13:7.
Whether you are a Christian or not, you can appreciate the effect on the government of your country if valuable tax revenues are lost. You may feel that your actions are minor, but such actions add up. In one African country numerous small farmers smuggle their coffee crops into neighboring lands where the coffee is sold for a higher price. Each farmer may smuggle only a little coffee, but the end result is that the revenue from 30 percent of the nation’s entire crop is lost each year.
If your country, like most, depends on customs revenues to help pay for government services, then by your “harmless” smuggling you are really robbing your fellow citizens. How so? Because they will have to pay higher taxes to offset the lost revenue. Further, as a result of dishonest citizens, governments take costly measures in order to search people more carefully. Taxpayers must foot the bill. Nigeria, for example, recently spent over $3 million on ships to catch smugglers, and another $12.4 million on construction of customs posts in strategic areas.
Guns and Drugs
Not all items are smuggled to avoid paying duty. Guns, ammunition and drugs would not be taxed in most countries; they would be confiscated. Such smuggling is a very big business worldwide, and doubtless contributes to the increasing worldwide problems of crime and political instability. Such smuggling poisons and threatens society itself. Sad to say, such criminal smuggling is too often made possible by corrupt customs officials.
Ironically, rich and poor countries often work against one another’s interests when smuggling is involved. In poor countries where marijuana or poppies are grown, the governments may be reluctant to eliminate crops that bring valuable currency into their economies. The rich nations complain about the drug problem, but they continue to manufacture the weapons that are smuggled into poor countries and so contribute to social unrest there.
What Can You Do?
You can, however, be determined not to contribute to the smuggling problem. Do not purchase items if you suspect they have been smuggled. Don’t let yourself get talked into making some easy money by bringing back a package for someone when you return from vacation. Know what the customs regulations of your country are and respect them, even if you know a foolproof way to sidestep them. As an honest citizen you will have something no smuggler can obtain for you—a clean conscience!