In Madagascar, an importer of crude palm oil has accused Malagasy customs of harassment to favor its competitor. Customs refute these allegations and defer to the judiciary. This is an opaque affair involving billions of ariary (over 19 million euros) and hundreds of jobs. The Malagasy company, which feels aggrieved, has made widespread appeals to the media.
For the past year, the crude oil refining plant of DMC Industries in Majunga has been idle. The company, founded by the Baskar family in 2014 under the name Bidco, has been under scrutiny by the authorities for several years, and the 3,000 liters of palm oil imported from Malaysia in October 2022 were seized by customs.
Customs authorities allege a series of false declarations of goods to pay lower taxes, which the company’s lawyers, Victoria Ravonjiarivelo and Tantely Ramaroson, vehemently deny.
“There have never been false declarations of goods. The company imported crude oils to be refined into refined oil; it has never imported refined oils, contrary to what customs accused us of. There has been a long-standing persecution against DMC, and it’s been ongoing for a long time. All the analyses carried out, whether by the supplier or the Pasteur Institute, confirm that the oils imported by DMC are crude. I think there has been collusion to harm us,” says the lawyer. “It suggests that certain individuals’ interests are being protected and that other players in the oil sector are being favored,” adds her colleague, who also regrets the negative image this conveys to investors.
When questioned, Headman Andriamahazosoa, the director of Legal Affairs and Anti-Fraud at Malagasy Customs, is not surprised by the attacks made by the company but persists in the registered fraud:
“This is a typical case of false declaration of goods. Customs has documents. These are documents presented by the company during the clearance of goods, and we have corroborated our evidence with sample analyses as well. There is no harassment. It was DMC that requested the case to be brought before the courts. Now, we are calmly awaiting the decision of the Court of Cassation. Customs merely bring cases to court and submit evidence. It is up to the courts to decide. Moreover, customs partners with all companies working for Madagascar’s economy. It is not its role to favor anyone in customs clearance.”