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Contraband alcohol disappears from Customs lock-up

Contraband alcohol disappears from Customs lock-up

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An investigation is to be launched by police in relation to a “significant quantity” of alcoholic beverages which cannot be accounted for at the Customs department.{{more}}

Director General of Finance and Planning (DGFP) Maurice Edwards requested the investigation in a letter to Commissioner of Police Keith Miller last week, two independent, well-placed sources told SEARCHLIGHT.

The alcoholic beverages in question had been seized from importers for various reasons, over a period of time, and had been stored in an area used for securing prohibited merchandise or contraband.

Customs regulations state that contraband alcohol may only be used for State functions or be destroyed.

One source told SEARCHLIGHT that when checks were made of the contraband area recently, boxes, which had originally contained the seized liquor, were still in place, but when they were searched, they were found to be empty.

The missing alcohol had neither been destroyed nor used for State functions, SEARCHLIGHT understands.

Last week’s memo from the DGFP comes shortly after another incident at the Customs, which saw certain senior Customs officers allegedly reimbursing a resort operating here for missing drinks.

SEARCHLIGHT has learnt that the resort recently imported a quantity of alcoholic beverages, which was seized by the Customs department for being in violation of the Customs Control and Management Act No. 14 of 1999.

According to the Act, whisky, rum, gin, vodka and brandy may only be imported by “a person or firm who is the sole agent or distributor for the particular brand of such spirits…”

Our source said two local companies are agents for some of the alcohol imported, and Customs held the drinks so that the resort “could work out something” with the agents.

The source said that in the period during which the matter was being resolved, some “choice bottles” of the liquor went missing from the Customs department.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that the resort accepted a monetary settlement for the missing drinks, which was allegedly paid by certain senior Customs officers.

Repeated attempts to reach Comptroller of Customs Grenville John for comment were unsuccessful.

SEARCHLIGHT visited his office on Tuesday, but we were told he was out.

When telephone calls were later made to his office, we were told he was in a meeting, and he did not return our calls, although messages were left.

The Director General of Finance and Planning was not in office and therefore unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

His staff said he would be out for about a week.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Keith Miller began 30 days vacation on Monday.

He is expected to return to work on January 23, 2013.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Michael Charles, who is acting in Miller’s absence, told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that he is “not aware” of any request by the DGFP for the police chief to investigate the Customs department.

“No. I am not aware of that,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.

However, our sources, both of whom saw the memo from the DGFP to the Commissioner, said Charles may not yet have seen the document, since it was received by the police before COP Miller went on leave.

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