Saturday September 22, 2018

A Norwegian Diplomat vehicle held for Artifacts Smuggling in Israel

IAA confirmed the amount of antiquities as 10 kilograms, releasing a picture that “showed a mound of small coins and around a dozen small figurines.”

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Antiquities found in a Norwegian diplomatic vehicle at the Allenby border crossing, May 31, 2016. (Israel Tax Authority). Image source: Timesof Israel.com
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  • Antiquities smuggling is a recurrent problem in Israel
  • Most of the coins recovered were from the Hellenistic and Roman eras
  • The valuables were seized while a senior Norwegian diplomat was in the car

A Norwegian diplomat vehicle carrying a haul of antiquities consisting of coins, sculptures, statuettes, and other artifacts concealed in cardboard boxes was arrested at Allenby Bridge on Monday, June 6.

The valuables were seized while a senior Norwegian diplomat was in the car, travelling between Jerusalem and Jordan. “Following Norway’s permission to the Israeli MFA for the custom authorities to search the vehicle, custom officials stated to have found artifacts in the car. A locally employed driver was detained by Israeli authorities,” reported Jerusalem Post.

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The officials along with the driver were arrested at the scene but were later granted conditional release by the Jerusalem Magistrate Court after posting bail. The Israeli Tax Authority named the driver as Issa Nagam, a resident of Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem.

Israeli Tax Authority officials handed the artifacts over to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) for furthering details on the items. Initially, it was reported that the articles found were of “great value”, with no further information on the origin of the precious figurines.

The Allenby Bridge border crossing seen from the Jordanian side. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The Allenby Bridge border crossing seen from the Jordanian side. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Antiquities smuggling is in fact a recurrent problem in Israel, where precious items are sold illegally to collectors both inside and outside the region. They are often used to launder money in villages near West Bank and Bar Kochba-era tunnels.

IAA later confirmed the amount of antiquities as 10 kilograms, releasing a picture that “showed a mound of small coins and around a dozen small figurines.”

“Most of the coins were from the Hellenistic and Roman eras. The bulk was minted by Judea’s Hasmonean Kings and by King Herod,” said an IAA spokesperson.

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The Norwegian Embassy in Tel Aviv told the Times of Israel, “Norway takes this incident very seriously.” An internal probe has been launched by the Foreign Embassy to investigate how a diplomat vehicle was used for an illegal activity.

“We are aware that diplomatic vehicles from other missions have been subject to similar incidents. In addition to the handling by Israeli authorities, we have initiated an internal process,” said the Norwegian Embassy.

-by Maariyah Siddiquee, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @MaariyahSid

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Finance Minister Appeals To Insist On Bill For Every Purchase

the government would start a three-digit consumer helpline number

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Finance Minister Appeals To Insist On Bill For Every Purchase
Finance Minister Appeals To Insist On Bill For Every Purchase. Flickr

Seeking consumers’ participation in curbing tax evasion, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on the eve of completion of one year of GST rollout on Saturday appealed to them to insist on bill for every purchase saying it would help the government check evasion and reduce tax rate on each item by as much as 4-5 per cent. He further said the government would start a three-digit consumer helpline number to enable them to lodge complaint against erring traders or any other kind of tax evasion.

Touted as the biggest indirect tax reform since Independence, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was rolled out last year on July 1. “I want to appeal to the people that they should demand a bill whenever they go to purchase any goods. If you start asking for a bill…if there’s awareness about this, then we can reduce rates by 4-5 per cent for every item (under GST),” Goyal told reporters here.

He said if any shop says that they will sell at a lower price if the consumer does not demand a bill, then the consumer should immediately file a complaint, he said. “We will soon provide a three-digit simple number which will work as a call centre where customers can complain. We will ensure full confidentiality of the complainant,” Goyal said. The endeavour will be to start the helpline number within 15-20 days, he said. A nationwide campaign too could be launched for creating consumer awareness about demanding bills for purchases made. “If everyone starts giving bill then competition will be on quality and customer service and not on ability to cheat the system,” Goyal said. He further said the government wants to reduce the burden of taxation on consumers but revenue needs to increase and support of states is also needed to cut rates where it is essential.

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bills owing. Flickr

With formalisation of economy, the government will have more elbow room to reduce rates, he said.

Also read: Out of Total Tax Fine of $15 billion, Apple Pays $1.77 billion to Irish Government

Goyal also assured small businesses if they face any trouble, then they can write to him and it would be resolved. He said amendments would be introduced to the GST law in monsoon session to increase composition scheme threshold from the current Rs 1 crore. The GST Council had last year decided to increase the threshold to Rs 1.5 crore and also decided to amend the law to increase the statutory threshold to Rs 2 crore. (IANS)