US Customs Says Svay Rieng Factory Transshipped Chinese Pipes

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Sihanoukville port. (Heng Vichet/VOD)
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A factory in an industrial park in Svay Rieng province shipped China-made pipes to the U.S. as Cambodia-made to evade duties, U.S. Customs said this week, with investigators finding production machinery “unused, dry, and covered in spider webs.”

They also found some packages of identical weights and amounts being imported from China then exported to the U.S. a few days later, it said.

In a decision dated Monday, U.S. Customs says Cambodia-based company HiCreek Plumbing was used by Blue Star Global for transshipment of iron soil pipe from China to the U.S.

It received a complaint in March, and a site visit to HiCreek’s facility in Bavet city with Cambodian Customs officers in July found centrifugal pipe machines “unused, dry, and covered in spider webs,” while the company gave inconsistent explanations about suspending production due to Covid-19, according to the document.

The company said it imported machinery, equipment, tooling and molds from China but produced pipes and fittings at the factory, the document says.

But in its decision, U.S. Customs says Qian Zhang, listed by the Commerce Ministry as HiCreek’s chairman, is also a listed manager of Qingdao H.R., a soil pipe and fitting exporter in China’s Shandong province.

“Most significantly, the weights and package amounts of several HiCreek imports from China correspond exactly, or almost exactly, to the weights and package amounts exported only a few days later to the United States,” the document says.

“[M]ultiple facts on the record establish that HiCreek transshipped Chinese-origin soil pipe through its facility in Cambodia,” it concludes, citing its connections to Chinese suppliers, shipment records, and continued shipments even as production ceased. Imports of the products to the U.S. have been suspended, the document says.

A number listed for HiCreek with the Commerce Ministry did not connect. According to OpenCorporates, Blue Star Global is registered both in the U.S. and Hong Kong.

A Commerce Ministry report on Svay Rieng special economic zones dated November says the HiCreek factory had two office staff and 21 production workers in October, who were paid a total of around $6,600. Its shipments, mostly to Argentina but also to the U.S., were valued around $500,000 that month, according to the document.

Cambodia-based firms in the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone have previously been fined by the U.S. for transshipment, with Robert Thommen, customs and border attache at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, saying last year that sometimes the transshipped goods were mixed in with genuine Cambodia-made products.

“We have the finished products [that are] also being transshipped, but they’re also being produced in a country and they comingle with originating goods,” Thommen said at the time. “So you have the legitimate, originating goods, and then you have also transshipped goods comingled into the same containers, and we’re looking at that as well.”

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