‘No politics’incustoms raid
Customs Comptroller Glenn Gomez stressed yesterday that comments made Wednesday by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham against Robin Hood President Sandy Schaefer did not trigger a customs raid on the establishment hours later.
In fact, Gomez said the Department of Customs had been investigating Robin Hood for months in connection with alleged uncustomed goods.
But Schaefer toldThe Nassau Guardianoutside his Tonique Williams-Darling Highway establishment minutes after the seizure was made that he does not think it is a coincidence that the raid happened the same day the prime minister spoke about him in an unflattering way.
Schaefer also believes it is no coincidence that the raid came a few days after he and other business people impacted by roadwork on Prince Charles Drive raised concerns in the media.
Yesterday, Gomez said it would be wrong to attempt to attach any political motive to the department’s seizure of computer equipment from Robin Hood.
“At this point in time, by law I’m the comptroller of customs,”he said in an interview at the Department of Customs on Thompson Boulevard.
“The Customs Management Act gives me certain powers and certain latitudes. I really don’t involve myself in politics. What the prime minister and any other ministers do, that’s their concern. It’s not mine.
“My job is to run this organization and that is what I’ve been doing. It just so happens… that the day we chose to go and get that equipment I understand, I don’t know, that there may have been some comments made by the prime minister. Well, you’d have to speak to him about that.
“He didn’t even know what we were going to do. I do what I need to do to run this organization. Now, I will advise him from time to time of certain things, but that’s about it. As far as I’m concerned there are no political connotations whatsoever in what we did and what comments may have been made, none whatsoever.”
Gomez suggested that the timing of the seizure was purely coincidental.
“There’s an ongoing investigation that we’re involved in that we needed to get information to correspond with other information that we have and that(computer) equipment is a very necessary part of our investigation,”he explained.
He said the department has been looking at Robin Hood and other businesses for”a number of months”.
Gomez said it was not the department’s intention to make the matter public.
“With Robin Hood, we have had just under 10 cases with them in-house over the last eight to 10 months, so I think that in itself says something is going wrong with that company in terms of their interface with customs,”he said.
“It is our job when we find things like that to make sure that they are above board and that the appropriate revenue that is taxable is in fact being collected. We’re not satisfied that that is the case, so hence the investigation.”
Asked how it is that any business person could be allowed to clear uncustomed goods, Gomez explained that because of the volume of goods being cleared it is quite possible that some things are missed at the customs’counters.
“Suppose we decide that we are going to do a 100 percent thorough check of all of the documents that came to us?It means that we’d have people backed up in the yard. People could not then get their goods in a 24-hour period that we are now working with,”he said.
Gomez added that customs conducts post-importation examinations and sometimes uncovers that certain charges and payments were not made.
“Once we do our post-importation checks and we find out that we’re not happy with certain things, then we either seek to get the necessary information from the importers or the individuals and whatever other information we need to satisfy ourselves, that’s what we do,”he said.
Schaefer toldThe Nassau Guardianhe operates in an honest and transparent fashion. Yesterday the establishment was open for business.
His attorney, Wayne Munroe, said he wrote to customs and police officials yesterday requesting the return of the equipment. He said they had more than enough time to copy what they needed to for their examination.
Munroe said he was not certain whether a response was received as he was not in office yesterday afternoon.
He added that he would commence legal action on behalf of Schaefer as early as today if the property had in fact not been returned.