… Cigarette smuggling scam
At least four senior Customs officers have been given letters, ending their contracts with the Guyana Revenue Authority after they were implicated in a scam to evade taxes on a container of cigarettes.
Kaieteur News understands that three of the officials, among them a supervisor at the Mandela Avenue warehouse of a major shipping company, a senior functionary of the Customs Enforcement unit and another from the Data Entry Processing department.
This would bring the number of Customs officers sent home over the past weeks to nine.
The most recent four were reportedly given letters informing them that their services would no longer be required. The cigarette smuggling case has seen Customs entries being manipulated and employees mired in a blackmail plot against a top GRA official to have disciplinary actions rescinded.
Late last month, five of the Customs Officers were detained by police in the blackmail plot.
Last August, authorities in Suriname intercepted a container of the bogus cigarettes and shipped them back to Guyana.
According to reports, three of the GRA employees received information that they were to be given their dismissal letters shortly.
It is alleged that one of the staffers facing dismissal video-taped and also made an audio recording of a very senior GRA official.
The employee reportedly then attempted to use the recorded information to force the official to reverse the decision to fire him and his colleagues.
Instead, the GRA official reportedly contacted a senior political official and was directed to have the alleged extortionist dismissed immediately.
It is alleged that in August, a 20-foot container came into the country as cargo, with the contents listed as women’s underwear.
It reportedly contained several bales of counterfeit State Express 555 cigarettes.
The container was released and taken to Moleson Creek where it was somehow allowed to enter the Suriname/Guyana ferry.
But Suriname authorities at South Drain reportedly found that the container did not have proper documentation and turned it back. It was in the Berbice region when BASS members are reported to have held onto it and detained the driver.
Just over two weeks ago, five Customs Officers also received letters ending their services.
Three of them were fingered in a plot to evade taxes for two luxury cars.
In June, the GRA seized the two Jaguars in what is believed to be a scam to evade millions of dollars in taxes.
The high-end cars were said to have been imported by a Croal Street auto dealer, in June, and were already cleared when questions arose over the size of the engine which determines the taxes and duties that are charged.
Although the Jaguar cars are normally over 3000 cc (cubic capacity), the Customs entries reflected the engine size as below 1498 cc. As a result, duties and taxes amounting to just over $2M were calculated for the two cars when more than $10M should have been paid to Customs.
The cars, which were reportedly already sold to individuals, were immediately seized by GRA.
There were questions how the Customs documents passed the routine checks which should have in the first instance picked up the discrepancies.
GRA, despite past requests for information, has largely been silent on the alleged crimes and has accused Kaieteur News of having Customs Officers on its payroll.
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