Following the seizure of a large stash of cocaine last week by Jamaican authorities in a container of logs from Guyana, the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has denied that it is responsible for the clearing or packing of items for export.
But the state’s revenue agency, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) said that GFC is responsible for ‘clearing’ forestry products for shipping while the Customs is responsible for ‘processing’ the declaration. GRA also said that it is too early to point fingers since there are discrepancies in the manner the logs were handled at different times while being cleared in Guyana.
Last Wednesday, Jamaica’s Customs announced that it had seized 122.65 kilos of cocaine at Port Bustamante in Kingston with a street value of more than $700M.
The seizure was made by the Customs Department after a routine examination of a trans-shipment vessel, MV Vega Azurit from Guyana, which arrived around 05:00hrs that day.
The Jamaican Customs said that no arrests have been made but that preliminary investigations suggest that the drugs were destined for Jamaica.
From initial reports, the container with the drugs left March 12 on the MV Vega Azurit from the John Fernandes Wharf in Georgetown.
Kaieteur News has learnt that the logs were part of a shipment from the Aroaima Forest Producers Association but according to records were to be shipped by another vessel, the MV Stadt Rotenburg.
The logs were reportedly processed since in February as 130 pieces. It is here that the situation got murky.
Members of the GRA’s Customs reportedly processed seven containers but eight were listed on the C-72 form, a document that lists all the items to be shipped and the number of containers.
Investigators believed that the name of the vessel was changed from Stadt Rotenburg to Vega Azurit somewhere along the way, which meant that either shipping or Customs’ officials would have been involved.
Investigators are also working on the theory that the container which was seized in Jamaica may have been slipped in since Customs only checked off 117 pieces while the exporter had declared 130 pieces of logs.
Yesterday, after several days of speculation and comments, both GRA and the GFC issued separate statements.
Expressing concerns over a Stabroek News’ article on Saturday headlined “Cocaine container wasn’t on shipping record- cleared by forestry, not customs”, GFC said that the information is not only damaging but “also erroneous, misleading and misrepresents the role of the GFC in the exportation of forest produce. It further casts a bad perception on, and has the potential to adversely affect the continued positive development of the forestry sector.”
GFC stressed that it has absolutely no role in the “clearing,” the packing of, or even the processing of containers for export.
“We wish to place again on record that our job (as it relates to the export of forest produce) is to ensure that the forest produce destined for export has been properly graded and satisfies all of the other export procedures…”
According to the GFC, the procedures it has established makes it absolutely clear that it has no responsibility for the packing of forest produce into containers, or the examining and sealing of any container destined for export.
“Currently, the GFC is actively collaborating with the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) and the relevant Jamaican and other counterparts to identify and bring the perpetrators responsible for this criminal act to justice.”
According to the forestry body, the GFC investigations to date have been very revealing. “…However, in the interest of allowing the relevant agencies to properly and impartially execute their mandate, we have, and will continue to furnish these agencies with our findings.”
GFC maintained that it has Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to deal with the exportation of forest produce and these procedures were accurately complied with.
“These include the GFC doing a 100 per cent verification of the prior independently graded forest produce. GFC, however, again emphasises that it has absolutely no responsibility for the packing of forest produce into containers, or the examining and sealing of any container destined for export and cannot be held responsible for the clearing of this container for export as is erroneously stated in the Stabroek News article.”
Yes, you are
Meanwhile, GRA in its own release, called for a proper and detailed investigation to be conducted.
“Recent suggestions that officers of the Customs and Trade Administration (CTA) of the GRA may be implicated in the cocaine find are at best premature since preliminary investigations conducted separately by the GRA and the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) point to several discrepancies in the way the shipment of the logs was handled at different times by different agencies.”
The agency expressed concern over the Stabroek News story which appeared to have caused some amount of alarm to the GFC and “regrets the implication that the GRA is now blaming the GFC for the container with the cocaine being on board the ship.”
According to Sattaur, he had made it clear last week that GFC was the agency responsible for ‘clearing’ forestry products for shipping while the CTA was responsible for ‘processing’ the declaration.
“Clearance involves, among other things, the issuance of Export Certification, Timber Marketing Certification, and the stamping of the Customs Declaration form (C72) and related documents. After the GFC issues the ‘clearance’ the CTA then processes the declaration,” GRA explained.
In remarks made today, Sattaur said, “l would like to categorically state that it was never my intention to blame anyone or any agency for this heinous act but, as indicated to reporters who called me on the matter, my intention is to get to the bottom of the incident and, at the appropriate time, take such action on the perpetrators if it is found that GRA officers were involved.”
The Commissioner-General of the GRA added that “… the logs and the containers were handled by several persons and agencies starting with the exporters and ultimately ending with the shippers.
A breach could have taken place at any point in that chain and only a detailed investigation would identify at what point the cocaine was placed in the container.”
GRA insisted that while its CTA officers followed the documented Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), it is too early to lay the blame at any particular officer or agency but “no one could be ruled out either.”
Nov 19, 2019The Guyana Golden Jaguars played out a 1-1 draw with Jamaica Reggae Boyz last night in Kingston, Jamaica. The match was the return fixture between the two top placed sides in the Concacaf Nations...
Nov 19, 2019
Nov 19, 2019
Nov 19, 2019
Nov 19, 2019
Nov 19, 2019
About 25 years ago, I asked former prominent Permanent Secretary, historian and UG lecturer, Pat Dyal, if he could offer... more
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]