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Tension between Customs and Port Authority workers

File photo of stacks of containers lying on the St George’s Port – the main point of entry for goods coming into the country

The relationship between some Customs officers and their colleagues at the Grenada Ports Authority (GPA) are currently in a state of uneasiness following the decision of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to pull in a female port authority employee for questioning in connection with alleged irregularities.

A source close to GPA said that workers of the authority on the St George port are pointing an accusing finger at a particular senior member of the Customs Department for seeking to reignite an issue that dates back to more than five years.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the port authority worker was suspected of aiding and abetting a businessman through the frequent granting of Manual Passes to remove some pallets of goods from the port without passing through the Asycuda system that is under the control of Customs.

An influential member of GPA charged that the Customs Department might be allowing itself to be used by the Political Directorate to get at the businessman who has expressed an interest in contesting a seat in the upcoming general election on a ticket of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).

He accused the Customs of demonstrating double standards since the same kind of treatment is not handed down on its own staffers who have been suspected of engaging in many illegal activities.

He cited the case of a member of the Customs staff who allegedly stole thousands of dollars while on assignment at the Grenada Postal Corporation (GPC) and was only removed from the posting and put on a Desk job in the Main office of the department on the Carenage.

“How come you ain’t hearing anything about that – that is hard earned cash?”

THE NEW TODAY has been able to independently confirm that a Customs Officer from the St Andrew area was pulled out of the post office in the face of allegations levelled against him.

According to sources at GPA, the controversial Customs Officer was given a much different type of treatment since the police or FIU were never called in to probe the alleged theft of thousands of dollars that should have been deposited in the National Treasury

“This guy stole a lot of money – he is going to work every day and they have him sit down on a chair whole day doing nothing for the last year or two now. That is not a pie in the sky allegation – that is dollars and cents. How come they have him dey still?

How come they did not investigate him in a manner that warrants a criminal charge being laid against him? They just remove him from where he was and put him somewhere else doing nothing but still drawing a monthly salary at the expense of taxpayers. They are dealing only with certain things to make certain people look bad.

The GPA insider chided those running the Customs Department for trying to create some kind of discord in the political arena in the interest of the Keith Mitchell-led ruling New National Party (NNP) regime.

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“That is how I look at it,” he remarked.

The source accused those running Customs of engaging in a massive cover-up of the Postal Corporation issue.

He said: “Based on what I hear, if your post office charge was $5.00 in duties, he (Customs Officer) would add an extra dollar or two on the Value note. He found some kind of a loophole to add it – I don’t know how the hell he did that because these things are computer generated.

I don’t know how he was able to mastermind it or what he did to the system – whatever he did he was able to do it and collect extra money from people, making them believe that they were paying a certain amount (to government) but at the end of the day he was pocketing the rest,” he added.

The source told THE NEW TODAY that this particular Customs officer found a way to trick the system to make it look like the transaction added back up to the total duties collected on behalf of government.

He said that it was only after a review of the system was done that the scam was discovered but no criminal charges were pressed although there was evidence to suggest that this was taking place over a long period of time.

He added that this particular officer was pulled out of the Post Office as a Cashier and sent to work in the Main Office to do Desk duties.

“….It won’t surprise me if today or tomorrow I hear (name withheld) is going to this ministry or that ministry (to work on transfer). I think that was phase one of the disciplinary act – put him on Desk duties.”

Another source confirmed that in most cases, officers who are suspected or caught engaged in alleged acts of doing “wrong things” at Customs, they are often put to work in the Main Office to do certain tasks like the post checking of entries.

Another GPA insider related another act of wrong-doing that was allegedly covered up by Customs at an outlet controlled by a shipping agent from New York.

He said that another Customs officer found out certain discrepancies which led to those running the Department to pull out the suspected officer after a report was submitted to the Supervisor in charge of the outlet.

He stated that the officer was never charged for any acts of wrongdoing but merely transferred to the Main Office to do Desk Duties.

He said it was made out to look as “an ordinary transfer” but workers at both Customs and Port Authority are aware that something amiss did take place at the outlet.

There are also reports that some Customs officers are routinely moved from one location to another due to suspicious activities on their part.

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