Customs silent over enquiries

| 15/01/2012

(8636049.jpgCNS): With several customs officers suspended, some sacked, others under investigation overseas and one facing serious drug charges in the local courts, government officials have still made no comment about the problems that the critical department appears to be facing. At least five officers are facing accusation that range from turning a blind eye on customs fraud to gun and drug smuggling, but government has remained tight lipped on the issue relating to any of the allegations against customs officers or any enquiries into the alleged wrongdoing. The department bosses have given no indication over what, if anything, is being done to address the problems of apparent corruption in one of government’s highest revenue generating departments. 

CNS submitted a number of questions to government officials about the department in order to clarify the current situation and the speculation that even more officers may have been fired but none of the questions have been answered.

According to other sources, CNS understands that at least one officer may be under investigation in the US in connection with a gun smuggling operation in which Caymanian Brandon Leslie was recently arrested.  Another is due to appear in Summary Court this week charged with importing as much as two pounds of cocaine, while a third officer has been linked to a major drug smuggling investigation in the UK in which Caymanians were also arrested.

Two other officers are also believed to be on required leave as a result of customs fraud cases involving the importation of legal goods but where reduced duties had been illegally applied.

It appears that the various investigations surrounding the customs officers all relate to separate incidents but it is not clear if the issues are part of an organised attempt to corrupt customs officials, an endemic problem in the department or merely coincidental cases of rogue officers.  Despite the major public interest in explaining what is being done about what on the surface appear to be serious problems in the department, officials have remained silent.

As well as being an important barrier to the importation of unwanted items such as guns and drugs, the customs department is also one of the most important government departments when it comes to the public coffers and coercive revenue. The customs department is responsible for collecting duties on imported goods coming into the Cayman Islands, from motor vehicles to kitchen appliances, which accounts for around a quarter of government earnings. 

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Category: Crime

Comments (52)

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  1. EC says:

    You said it!  We are aware of "allegations" against some Custom's officers.  Allegation can be defined as an assertion made with little or no proof.  How would the Collector hold these officers accountable forsomething they have yet to be found guilty of?  Why jump the gun and address to the public that Tom and Harry are guilty of X and Z and are therefore dismissed from the service.  Just to please the general public's curiosity to know who these individuals are?  To satisfy our assumptions that they are guilty?  There are procedures that have to be followed, investigations to be conducted and guilt to be proven before any confirmation to the public can be revealed.  The Collector has remained one of the most honest and diligent leaders in the Government throughout his reign; with that being said I am confident that he has his means of dealing with the reprimands of his subordinates. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    Question – why does customs charge 1% insurance on every shipment EVEN when the importer has already paid insurance to the shipping company and EVEN after the shipment has arrived unscathed??

    Is Customs in the insurance business? This is blatant fraud just to boost revenues – and has been continuing unchallenged for years !!

    • Myth Buster says:

      No your facts…

      Customs does NOT charge 1% insurance.  They assess duty on insurance at the rate of 1% IF, and ONLY IF, the insurance is either,

      a, not covered on the bill of lading,

      b, the insurance is not charged in the cost of the goods and itemised as such and indicating coverage all the way to Cayman, or,

      c, the importer has a blanket policy that covers their shipments, in which case duty is charged on the rate of that policy, providing proof of the same is provided to Customs in written form.

      Bottom line, the value of goods for duty purposes is the CIF value, being the cost, insurance and freight to land in Cayman.  

      Next myth…

  3. who knows says:

    why does customs charge you the price of what you buy the item ( U.S price) for and the shipping cost included and dont convert it to C.I. ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah and at 0.84 conversion also!!

      • Anonymous says:

        If there is no currency conversion how can the conversion be at 0.84?

    • Anonymous says:

      Then you must point it out to them. At the airport they usually ask if the declared items value is in CI$ or US$.

      • C-Mon 2 de Bone says:

        This is asked because it soley depends on the arriving passenger who filled out the customs declaration form when the arrive, the customs officer has to confirm what currency the passenge has declared when they filled out the form so as to correctly acess if they are ove their duty allowonce. 

    • Importer #101 says:

      The CIF (Cos,t Insuarance & Freight)  are always converted from US$ to CI$   The customs import form states this clearly. 

  4. Anonymous says:

    well, it opens up the job market…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yes, grossly unfortunate but true. Customs brass will refuse to comment with the expectation  that this story will just blow over. And it will. We're like that. Sad.


  6. Disgusted says:

    The BOTTOM line is simple- too much family in one department- IF your name begins with a P and ends with a Y and you are employed within this department- you are protected. On the other hand, I agree with the comments about the officers personality at the airport- it is digusting to say the least and the "you woke me out of bed too early and I have still have duppy poo in my eyes" attitude needs to be corrected. I look forward to travelling and look forward to returning home, but I will be damned if I look forward to facing those set of unpersonable, ill-mannered and self serving officers as I make my way through the customs line.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Tight lipped- No surprise from this department.

    You never hear anything from the Collector of customs or his three deputies (yes 3!). This department is quite top heavy with management positions, earning considerable salaries yet the community never hears from them or has any indication as to how they are combating the importation of guns, drugs & contraband.

    It was reported by a poster sometime last week that the Collector of Customs is due to retire soon and if this is the case why are we not seeing a succession plan taking place. This department needs to do some “house cleaning”.  Get more officers doing random inspections; tighten up on your in-house audit of officers and speak to the community WE PAY YOUR SALARIES!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Anybody could have seen this coming.

    Have you seen all the fancy cars at the Customs Office?  I doubt they get paid that well, yet such spending never gets questioned…

  9. Another Anon says:

    Sounds like inspiration for a John  Grisham novel.

  10. Dreadlock Holmes says:

    "I have to have a witness as a I destroy this $1400 Flat Screen TV.  Because there was a small scratch on the case."

    "Should I throw it in the dumpster?"

    "Just put it down over there. Carefully."

  11. Anonymous says:

    How about a senior Customs officer who for the last 10 years has been repeatedly reported by female officers of sexual harassment?

  12. Anonymous says:

    At 7.28 You are absolutely correct. Every keeps blaming the Police when its Customs that protects our borders. Now same with immigration to protect the future of employment for Caymanians. Those guns and drugs are not grown in Cayman and many Caymanians have  experience or have degrees and 25 years later we are still not able to climb the ladder? This is the real root of the problem with Cayman going under!

  13. Anonymus says:

    Before putting too much oprobium in the air think of this from the perspective of the employer (Collector of Customs). He has officers under active investigation but innocent until proven guilty. He can't say anything substantive without prejudicing subsequent actions. Any good lawyer or mother will advise you that if you don't have something good to say, don't say it. Otherwise it might come back to bite you in subsequent litigation, or elsewhere.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Government needs a professional practices office so desperately, so many corrupt civil servants period, accountability is the key

  15. Carib58 says:

    Involving the UK? Come on.. Have a look at UK’s own issues before making comments like that.

  16. Anonymous says:

    With the Financial Secretary now out of the way, the Customs Department answers directly to the Minister of Finance, who hinmself is under investigation for "financial irregularities". Do you really think the "Government officials" to whom the questions were asked are gonna give any answers, especially when they know full well that the Minister may want to see their response before it is released to CNS? The dept Head will just kick it up to the Ministry to respond.


    My money ison "no answers till after the next election"

  17. Anonymous says:

    One has to wonder how far these crimes extend up the food chain.

    Are there any beneficiaries in high enough public positions who need to control this investigation in order to protect themselves?

    Given the severity of the Cayman drug problem, the public has every right to be informed. Who is keeping the identities of these Customs criminals secret, and why?

    The recent plane crash in the Brac could be related. What is happening in that investigation? Has there been any follow up? 


    • Burn Notice. says:

      You may want to ask the question as to why the ex-patriate K9 officer who found CI$13M worth of cannabis in 2007 was fired 6 months later and yet the Caymanian 'K9' officer who 'found' CI$9M worth of drugs is still in the srevice and has been promoted.

      And let me point out this is 'Her Majesty's Customs' not 'His Bushiness' Customs'. Are there problems inEngland? Yes, for sure, but nothing like the comical contempt for the people and laws of the land that exists in Cayman.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Customs officers trying to make a little side money, eh!?

    Perhaps next time, when they are dealling with the returning residents/guests/tourists in line at the airport or at the Wharehouse, they can put a smile on there faces and treat us with a little more Diginity and Rrespect! Maybe, they might even get a promotion for being courteous. {sigh, "courteous"}… newa happen.

    What goes around…


    Traveling Caymanian.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thomas Jefferson must be rolling over in his grave!!!

    • C-Mon 2 de Bone says:

      How many smiles do you really see at any CUSTOMS DEPT around the world? (since you are such a traveler)  The Customs Dept here or abroad are not there to make any friends they collect dutable revenue for their country, intercept contraband, and assist the Immirgration and oice deptartment with persons of interest (criminals). This is what wrong here in Cayman we are suppose to memick every other country in the world with what THEY do and do likewise.  Yes there are a few here that could really use some customer service classes but hell some passengers need to also remember Cayman Customs Staff are human too and they are no different from any Customs Dept in the WORLD……   

  19. Anonymous says:

    I feel bad cuz I always accuse that department in particular of not doing any work – it appears they can find things to do with their time. SMDH

  20. Anonymous says:

    This story is sad, but not surprising….

  21. Anonymous says:

    Customs is the KEY to Cayman, period. This is the one department that brings our income (Duty) and also controls the drug crime. Importation and exportation are critical.

    If we the people force our politicians and policy makers to make Cayman Customs air tight and water tight, run well, and you will see half of our problems go away!

    Get this right and use it as a benchmark. No more nonsense in Govt.

    Corruption and filling pockets are a thing of the past! Either get honest or get out!

  22. Pit Bull says:

    Perhaps the Government should just publish a list of those not under investigation. It might be quicker. This is a real crisis for security and the UK needs to step in.

    • Anonymous says:

      Isn't it fortunate, Pit Bull, that Caymanians by and large do not read Private Eye, in particular, but not exclusively, the Rotten Boroughs section dealing with rampant UK corruption. It allows loyal colonialists like you and me to point out the mote in Cayman's eye while brushing ineffectually at the beam in the UK's eye.

      That's your actual bible reference, ducky. If you're a certain age and from the UK you wouldn't know.

      Pip pip.

  23. Anonymous says:

    It looks like customs is the perfect breeding ground for corruption and by all appearances, the perfect place to cover up crime. I believe all wrong should be punished regardless of the department.

  24. Anonymous says:

    It is quite clear that many of the general public are aware of the allegations against some Custom's Officers, so why have we not had a public statement from the Collector of Customs?  With the deafening silence will only come more speculations and rumors.  What about the moral of all the good oficers who must suffer when the public looks at them and wonder if they are corrupt? In any mature society whenever someone in the public eye does wrong it is stated.  What are we hiding? Is t the fault of the department heads? I think these mature people should be hels accountable for their actions.  Maybe the Collector is smart and has learned something after all these years at the helm.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Simply make a deal with the Customs officers in question to talk about the gun and drug smuggling and name names or face long term housing in Northward. Life wouldn't be good for a Customs officer in Northward.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, the living conditions at Northward might just be a whole lot better than their own homes and might explain a lot.

  26. Anonymous says:

    "rogue officers". What a joke. Systemic corruption more like, just like immigration. About time both departments came under the direct control of the UK, to stop the massive and discriminatory human rights abuses committed by Caymanians under the name of "nation building" or whatever else racist/xenophobic bulllsh*t.

    • Anonymous says:

      What happened to you?  It seems like you have a chip on your shoulder.  Nation building was vote buying, how was it xenophobic?

    • Anonymous says:

      “Direct control of the UK”. I am sure you would like that so you can have discriminatory decisions in your favour.

      What did the nation buildingissue have to do with racism?

  27. Truthand fact says:

    17:03 you are so wrong, it is Caymanians giving foreigners the break that they dont give Caymanians.  Sorry for you, you dont know what is going on.

    Caymanians hardly shop overseas any more, there is no need to.  Because if AL Thompson don't have it then you don't need it.



    • Anonymous says:

      I so hope you are fishing for a bite, because if that is what you believeit has given me the biggest laugh of the day.

  28. Anonymous says:

    You must remember that the first rule when questioning the Civil Service is to circle the wagons and protect their own.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Caymunians protecting Caymunians.

    • NOT!!!! says:

      No! Its a West Bayer protecting West Bayers!

    • Pitta Patta says:

      This is typical of every department under the UDP government because they learn from the top. The UDP is notorious for being "silent over enquiries," any & ALL enquiries!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Too many of one family in one place.