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Anyone that has ever cleared a barrel or parcel at the customs will tell you that it’s a tedious process. After getting the necessary documents to discharge the items, the goods are thoroughly searched by customs agents.

Lately, there have been cries by some persons that customs agents have overcharged them, but Comptroller Grenville John, revealed that most times when closely investigated, it is usually a case of persons trying to deceive the system and are caught.{{more}}

In an interview with Searchlight Newspaper, the Comptroller said that many times persons who ship items bring in goods to sell and they are not for their own personal use as they claim. He noted that many of the items are hidden at the bottom of the barrel, with the hope that custom agents will not empty the entire package.

He explained, “We get barrels laden with food stuff at the top, or with just some regular clothing and half way through our search there is a blanket and under that blanket you see items for sale such as DVD players, TV’s, cosmetic items and clothes. The excuse that these merchants give is that they have large families, but most of these items are for vendors who operate in the market and side walks.”

John noted that when people ship their goods to sell through the customs, it is unfair to merchants who have to pay full duty on their goods. He said that the customs is available for the ordinary person to ship their personal goods, which are categorised in the general headings of either Food Stuff or Clothing.

The Comptroller also disclosed that many persons were using aliases to clear items at the customs, and for this fraudulent behaviour when caught, persons could be prosecuted in the Court of Law.

Through investigation, Searchlight Newspaper found that the Customs Comptroller and Management Act of Act 14 of 1999 states, “Any imported goods concealed in a container holding goods of a different description or concealed or packaged in any manner appearing to be intended to deceive an officer, such goods shall be liable to forfeiture.”

The act further revealed, “Persons found guilty of contravening this section are liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or three times the value of the goods, whichever is greater.”

John said that many people ignore this rule and lamented that often it was the same people who demanded to see the country develop, but who do not see the relation between that and Government collecting Custom Revenue to improve the state.

The Comptroller emphasied, “We have people who try to defraud the system using every opportunity they get and they wonder why some areas of the country is stagnant and is not developing as quickly. This country’s Customs and Excise is relatively affordable compared to other countries, so people must realise that their items will be valued according to the content of the barrel.”

He outlined that barrels that are legitimately found to have only personal items which are not for sale usually have a charge of only $170 to $180, but persons who are found with items for sale can be charged thousands of dollars to clear their barrels.

He urged persons who use the Customs to ship their goods to be honest and declare the contents so that they will not get the heavy penalties that go along with their fraudulent practice.

The Head of Customs reiterated, “Our Custom agents are extremely vigilant and know the tricks that people play to get away from paying full duty. We know that there are many vendors, restaurants and boutiques owners, who try to ship their stock through the Customs and we are asking you to desist from this practice.”

While taking snap shots of the operations in the Customs Department, one Custom Officer admitted to Searchlight Newspaper that an importer was recently charged over $60,000 for importing 11 barrels that had 11 different names.

She stressed that many of her fellow co-workers are often accused of over-charging people, but noted that it was shocking sometimes how people tried to hide their goods by cleverly packing their shipment.