-US$350,000 seized from Chinese nationals coming from Suriname
A prominent scrap metal dealer and a Customs broker are in custody following a
major investigation at a city wharf.
This was after the discovery of forged documents, in recent days, relating to a number of containers of scrap metal at the Water Street wharf of the Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL).
Several staffers of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) have since been removed from the wharf area and a senior female manager sent on administrative leave.
According to officials close to the investigation, a GRA employee noticed some discrepancies pertaining to the export licences for containers of scrap metal being sent overseas by an Eccles, East Bank Demerara businessman.
The discrepancies, especially concerns over the signatures on the documents, were brought to the attention of senior GRA officials who immediately launched a probe.
The containers of scrap metal were supposed to have left on Thursday. They were immediately ordered held. The signatures on the documents were said to have been forged.
Kaieteur News was told that the scrap metal dealer was arrested on Friday and later handed over to police. The Customs broker who handled the transaction at the wharf was also taken into custody. The Eccles businessman is said to be a major player in the trade.
According to officials, under the system, an exporter who is licensed is supposed to submit documents from the Ministry of Business, which handles the scrap metal trade.
Together with the ministry’s approval, and with Customs entries, only then is permission granted for the scrap metal to leave Guyana.
It will be recalled that following the assumption of the Coalition Government to office in May 2015, the trade was ordered closed after it was found that bank accounts of the trade were being handled by a special unit at the Central Housing and Planning Authority, under the then minister, Irfaan Ali.
The accounts had millions of dollars in them with tight control by Finance officer, Taslim Baksh, who is no longer on the job.
Auditors raised several questions about fees and other payments to the Scrap Metal Unit
The administration wants to bring legislations and more control after it was discovered in the past that the demand was driving persons to steal telephone copper cables and even infrastructure at public buildings, and fences.
Kaieteur News was told that currently only Gafoors has a licence to export scrap metal.
This was one of the reasons for the entries to be scrutinized so closely when they came in a few days ago.
In recent times, GRA has reported success in cracking down on Customs fraud, with several staffers fired, sent on administrative leave and punished.
Meanwhile, it is being reported that recently, GRA’s enforcement officials seized US$350,000 in cash from two Chinese nationals who visited Suriname and was returning.
The matter is under investigation.
In Region Six, which borders Suriname, the Berbice Anti Smuggling Squad (BASS), which was established years ago was disbanded after an assessment found that it was barely collecting enough to pay bills.
Yet, there was evidence that significant smuggling was continuing.
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