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Comptroller: Don't be afraid to report Customs fraud

By Julien Neaves

IN the past few years about three or four Customs officers have been brought before the court for various offences, reported Comptroller of Customs and Excise Division, Fitzroy John.

He noted there are several matters before the Public Service Commission currently and some will be sent "shortly".

He said when the Division finds employee involvement, both the employee and Customs officers have been brought to court. He noted the challenge was always in getting the evidence.

He was speaking at The British-Caribbean Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum "The REAL Cost of Counterfeit Goods" held at the Chamber of Industry of Commerce, Westmoorings.

John was responding to a question from one attendee who said some business people were wary of being victimised by employees of Customs and Excise who are involved in illegal activity.

John said if there is any evidence of collusion by Customs employees it is dealt with "severely".

"Once we are able to get the evidence of employee involvement we prosecute you in court and you would not be able to work in the public service ever again," John added.

He stressed that the issue of employees improperly using their office and collusion is taken "very, very seriously".

He noted there is an issue of people wary of coming forward with their concerns. He provided his e-mail, compt@customs.gov.tt and the direct line to the preventive branch 623-5178.

 Also at the forum, moderator Gillian Lucky, director of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), said there is a need for independently trained investigators to assist agencies such as the PCA, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Integrity Commission.

She explained that the PCA, FIU and Integrity Commission require the services of investigators not involved in the security forces. She also noted that law firms were in need of investigators to enforce intellectual property rights.

Ariane Ramnath of the intellectual property department of JD Sellier & Co, had earlier reported there was a lack of private investigators.

Lucky suggested that an academy be set up or a module implemented for this training to take place. She said otherwise there would be the problem of members of the security forces moonlighting as private investigators.

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