The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has stated that its Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) did not examine the rice shipment intercepted in the Dominican Republic last month, because it was not deemed a high risk. GRA boss Khurshid Sattaur, said in a press release yesterday that the DEU’s inspection was not necessary since the Venezuelan destined rice shipment was examined via the risk assessment system.
The GRA was clarifying information relating to the agency’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and stated that all procedures were followed prior to the PetroCaribe rice shipment.
A few weeks ago drug agents in the Dominican Republic unearthed 70 kilograms of cocaine in a shipment of rice that had been loaded in Guyana and was destined for Venezuela.
According to the GRA, “In order to provide clarification on the issue, the Guyana Revenue Authority wishes to state categorically that all Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were followed by its officers in the processing of documents and examination of Goods.”
“It should be noted that based on request from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), rice shipments coming through the GRDB are granted via Prior to Processing (PTP); a system which is utilized under specifically defined circumstances.”
Sattaur said that in accordance with the SOPs, the GRDB would apply to ship on behalf of the ‘exporter’, prior to processing of the Customs Declarations Form C72.
The GRBD would then supply the covering letter regarding the PTP along with the C72 form, the invoice and the CARICOM Certificate of Origin.
Sattaur continued that, these documents are then subject to “our risk profiling system.”
It was explained that, “the risk-profiling system was used for the shipment since it allows for exporters to be profiled based on several criteria, including their reputation, shipping history, destination country and type of goods.”
As such, the shipment was not profiled for scanning, but was physically examined, he said.
Sattaur noted that, “the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) was not required to be present during the examination of the rice shipped. However, physical examination was conducted by the Customs Officer assigned to the GEU prior to the sealing of the container.”
He said that the process entailed the observation of the packing or stuffing of the container with the bags of rice.
“It should be noted that the bags would have already been sealed via a process from which the GRA is excluded,” Sattaur pointed out.
He continued that, “the GRA systems are periodically reviewed and internal controls strengthened to ensure the integrity of all consignments shipped from Guyana.” He said also, that the organization is committed to such reviews and to ensuring that SOPs are followed by officials.
Nonetheless, Sattaur stated that investigations are still being conducted at an inter-agency level and the findings of that will be made available upon conclusion.
In the meantime, local anti- drug ranks say they are continuing with investigations and are awaiting more information from their foreign counterparts in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. The shipment had passed through the two countries on its way to Venezuela.
So far, officials from the Dominican Republic have detained two persons who they believe are directly associated with the infiltrated rice shipment in which the 70 kilogrammes of cocaine was stashed.
Dominican Republic officials were reportedly tipped off about the drugs and intercepted it by pulling off one container, while allowing the remaining cargo to meet its destination.
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