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Full investigation needed into Harbor Master incident

The Harbor Master Boat – owned by a prominent family in Trinidad & Tobago

A former top civil servant has called on the new Dickon Mitchell-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration to launch an immediate and full-scale investigation into the permission given to the party boat, Harbor Master, to operate during the just ended carnival season.

The retired public officer made the call in light of Wednesday night’s incident in which Grenada’s world champion in Javelin, Anderson Peters became involved in a brawl with several Trinis on the vessel.

Police have detained about five crew members of the boat based on complaints made by Anderson Peters and two other locals.

Local attorney-at-law Dylan Charles was seen at the Central Police Station on the Carenage offering legal counsel to the detained Trinidadians.

According to the retired public officer, the Ministry of Finance, headed by Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell should conduct a thorough investigation from the Customs end “into this thing.”

He said the possibilities exist that the authorities on the island “can find a million and one reasons to charge these people under different sections of the Customs law for violating the laws of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.

He stated that the Customs Department should be called upon to find out from the operators of the boat the origin of the fuel they were using to conduct the various cruises during the carnival activities.

“…If they (the fuel) come from foreign they have to pay duties on it,” he said.

The retired senior public officer also dropped hints that the Harbor Master might be in violation of other aspects of local laws.

“A boat comes from foreign to do a local job so it becomes a temporary import – it intends to go back but it is now doing a local job. The Customs are supposed to make people make their proper documents, pay the Customs Service Charge on the value of the boat before they start to work and then go to the Labour office and get their work permit or their exemptions or whatever it is under tourism,” he said.

The high-ranking ex-government employee also alluded to the role of the Immigration Department in processing the non-nationals to operate in Grenada.

“…The Immigration Officer who boarded the boat on arrival together with Customs – Once you declare to Immigration that you are here to work before they clear that person the issue of work permit must be settled,” he said.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the crew members of Harbour Master were working on the island without any officials work permits issued by the Ministry of Labour.

The retired senior civil servant expressed fears that the Customs Department might have “dropped the ball” and allowed the party boat to operate in Grenadian waters without meeting all the necessary requirements.

“Customs may have dropped the ball on that issue big time – this thing now is a big thing,” he quipped.

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“This thing is a serious thing. I don’t believe that Customs and them are handling this thing correctly – they are not handling this thing properly,” he said.

The official made reference to a preliminary investigation he conducted and discovered that Customs allowed the boat to operate on “a cruising permit” which is only intended for use by a yacht with its normal crew making trips up to Carriacou and then coming back on the mainland to points of entry like Prickley Bay and Lance Aux Epines.

He drew parallel with a crane that was brought up from Trinidad to do work on the island in the construction industry.

“If a crane comes from Trinidad and that does happen from time to time – when they were doing the stadium they bring up a crane from Trinidad – they applied for a temporary import.

“If you want to bring a man from Trinidad to work the crane – you say it’s a special crane – he has to get a work permit to come to work.

When Volker Stevens brought in the barge to do the dredging it became a temporary import because it is now doing a local job.

So, you can’t have a boat come here and work for a month or two months doing local cruises with local people and the boat does not go through the proper Customs procedure.

According to the retired public officer, the party-type business operated by the Harbor Master “does not fall under the Caricom thing of waiving of work permits.”

“This is a normal down to earth job like working on a boat and serving in a bar or something like that. I am really sick with what happened dey. I don’t know how this thing could happen in Grenada”.

The ex-government employee also raised concerns on whether the operators of Harbor Master were VAT compliant.

He suggested that the Treasury should investigate the amount of cruises done by the ship to determine how much they made and whether the funds collected reached the income tax threshold for duties to be paid to the State, especially on Company Tax and VAT.

He also said that the investigation should also focus on reports in circulation in certain quarters that the operators of Harbor Master were alledgedly buying liquor duty free and selling it on board which is in contravention of local law.

Correction: A previous version of this story which appeared on the front page of our ePaper for the week ending August 12, 2022 stated that Dylan Charles was associated with the law firm of Wilkinson, Wilkinson & Wilkinson. Attorney-at-Law Mr. Dylan Charles is not associated with the law firm of Wilkinson, Wilkinson & Wilkinson. Mr. Charles was a former employee of the firm and departed the Chambers on 30th June 2022.

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