Customs brouhaha
Goods in containers from Miami under invoiced - reports
Stabroek News
June 23, 2002

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The investigation into the two containers belonging to an importer alleged to have links with the Customs and Trade Administration (CTA) has revealed under-invoicing to the tune of $700,000.

This was confirmed by a source close to the investigation, who stated the goods were undervalued by this amount, but another source said this figure was the bare minimum.

Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority, Edgar Heyligar, had ordered the probe following the claims by businessmen that some importers received preferential treatment by CTA. This particular importer was pointed out by the businessmen as having links with CTA.

Heyligar had designated Deputy Commissioner of CTA, Jameel Baksh, to oversee the examination of the two containers.

Commissioner of CTA, Lambert Marks, was accused by the businessmen of favouring the importer.

Marks denied this and stated that everything surrounding the importation of the two containers was above board. He had said if there was one discrepancy between the content of the containers and the documents of the importer, he would stand the course of a full scrutiny by the public.

Marks had requested the head of internal audit at CTA to be present when the containers were opened and present his findings to the public. This officer could not be contacted yesterday to confirm the findings of the investigation.

Items imported in the containers included hand mixers, juice extractors, steam irons, cutlery, VCRs, freezers, and electric tubes, wire and starters.

A perusal of the invoice submitted by the importer to CTA showed a steam iron was priced at US$2.55, which is equivalent to $484.50. A steam iron is sold in stores here for between $4,000 to $6,000.

A VCR, according to the invoice, was valued at US$42 or $7,980. Consumers pay between, $25,000 to $35,000 for a VCR.

Sources also told Stabroek News that the importer bought the goods from his company in Miami and shipped them to another one of his companies in Guyana. The importer paid a total of $3.9 million in duties and consumption taxes for the two containers.

The probe launched by Heyligar was to determine whether any action by Marks in the processing of the documentation was irregular. Some businessmen had complained to Heyligar, who is Marks' functional superior, that the commissioner had approved the importer's documents even before the ship that brought them in had entered Guyana's waters. Heyligar told Stabroek News on Tuesday that he was just trying to get to the bottom of the issue and if it was concluded that Marks was guilty of wrongdoing, he would have no hesitation in recommending the commissioner's dismissal.

The row between Marks and Heyligar was brought into the open on Tuesday when Marks held a press conference stating that the commissioner-general was interfering with his work and pressuring him after the complaints by the businessmen.

Marks had told reporters that they would be hearing from him at a later date on issues such as drug-related murders, corruption in high places and money laundering. The Office of the President then gave him a 48-hour ultimatum, which ended on Friday to come up with the evidence.

Marks has since responded to the Office of the President stating he had no such information and would continue his pursuit to stamp out corruption. He said he hoped the facts on the issues that he mentioned would eventually come to his attention.