PM On Customs Probe: “Let The Chips Fall Where They May”

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said that “punishment” is the best way to deal with the customs fraud which has cost the government millions in lost tax revenue.

He is also warning that the matter won’t be swept under the carpet, notwithstanding those who are found liable.

Browne said the government has learnt there has been a “rampant looting” of governments taxes by brokers and others.

He said “one particular broker is responsible for over three million dollars in losses, that is what we have uncovered so far.”

The prime minister revealed that the broker in question already had a 200-thousand-dollar conviction on a previous matter but declined to name the individual.

He revealed that the investigation will be wider than just customs brokers and will also include customs officers and members of the business community.

“You also have these mail order operations in which many of the owners are collecting people’s taxes and they hold on to the taxes,” Browne disclosed.

He said the investigation so far revealed that his signature has been forged on a number of documents which purported to granted individuals tax waivers which are against government policy.

“So for example we have a policy that anything that is brought into the country for resale is not eligible for any form of exemption and we would have seen instances where these goods would have been brought in with exceptions, facilitated by forgeries. We have the information and those individuals will be pursued,” he said.

Browne also disclosed that there is evidence that customs officers colluded with businesses to defraud the state.

“In fact, the individuals who would have brought in those good may have colluded with maybe customs officers as well as brokers to get those goods in so there are going to be consequences for those individuals.”

He promised that  “such an egregious issue that it cannot be swept under the table.”

Browne who is also minister responsible for finance is asking residents to ensure that companies bringing in goods into the country “pay your taxes into customs because if they don’t you will become liable.”

Browne said the policy where companies benefit from tax concession in exchange for sponsorship for carnival will also come to and end.

“We saw a situation in which a particular company gave the Festivals Commission a 100 thousand dollars’ contribution and in turn they brought in three million dollars’ worth of goods that attracted duties and taxes of 1.1 million dollars.

“I have written to the comptroller of customs, I have said to him, give them a credit for the 100-thousand-dollar sponsorship and kindly collect the government’s million dollars,” the prime minister told his radio programme.

He wants future sponsors of carnival to “give cash, not in kind.”

The country’s leader also had a special warning to customs officers “ if you facilitate any such processing of warrants, you’ll be guilty of an offence and I want to remind them that  the customs acts provides for fine and imprisonment.”

He added, “I have told the comptroller of customs and those doing the investigation, let the chits fall where they may, we cannot have this kind of plundering of government’s money without consequences

“As far as I am concerned their licences should be revoked and they should be made to pay back the money.”

“Unless you punish people it will get worse,” he stated.

The alleged fraud was uncovered after the computerised system at the port realised a drop in revenue did not match the number of imports into the country over the last year.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Be careful what you wished for,Gaston.There was a situation with Customs auction money and no one was investigated and or charged.I guess the car with the money fell into a pothole and the money disappeared.They did say the person repaid the missing funds.How do we know that really happened.Like the Odebrecht scandal money that was paid to a former Ambassador.We were told that money was return.To this day we have no way of knowing the truth of that matter.Was the money really return?

  2. The comptroller of customs should be fired. This is not the first, second or third instance of this malfeasance under his watch.
    We all know who the broker is and we all know the cabinet member they are associated with.

    What if the chits fall on that cabinet member?

    Where is the tin man and the sidelines to guide us with their wisdom on this vexing issue.

  3. Our Prime Minister is now taking control of the situation. This is not something that just developed but it takes a strong Prime Minister as Hon. Gaston Browne to address this situation. Sit back and wait for the next chapter. God Bless our Prime Minister Hon. Gaston Browne.

    On another topic
    I heard on Observer Radio that Serpent will run on the UPP ticket next election. I hope the UPP will make Him a Candidate for the Constituency of ST. George where Hon. Dean Jonas will cream Him . I can guarantee that Serpent will NOT get 100 votes in the St. George Constituency. This Guy is very arrogant He believes that He is the Monarch of all He Surveys. The last time I saw Him at a FAITHFUL / UPP rally He could not utter a word. Very shameful. So welcome Serpent and Cleon Athill on the UPP ticket 2023.

    • rupert mann:
      What situation are you saying.The Prime Minister is taking control of.This did not begin yesterday and or today.

  4. Why isn’t the former senator that he threw under the bus before the last election has not been fined or convicted of stealing the people’s money from the port after the customs auction. Y’all here praising the pm but tell him to investigate the former senator that stole the customs money

  5. Of course this is all somebody else’s fault and all the somebodies must be punished…The whole system at the DWH stinks and is an inefficient nightmare for each and every importer. To be fair I do not remember a time when it wasn’t a nightmare and none of the leadership have made the bureaucracy and inefficiencies any better.
    The current endless stream of add-on taxes are outrageous and making sure that we, the people, can barely afford to buy food (far less nutritious food). I would suggest that instead on the constant wasting/stealing, high life freebie living and crap load of overpriced loans, run the island on a sensible budget and charge an across the board 20% (an exception being polluting cars) and I have to think that the fraud and smuggling would stop because it just would not be worth it…after all 20% on the real price versus 50% on a fake price adds up to the same amount!! It would eliminate the duty free begging and one has to imagine that in the long term the income would be substantial and constant…most important we would all be able to afford to eat and support a reasonable and healthy living instead of being forced to buy inferior products from China.

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