Letters & Opinion

Immigration, Police And Customs

Let me first commend former Commissioner of Police, Ausbert Regis on his contribution to RSL’s 90 Minutes programme. He was professional, focused and informative—in other words he was not “blowing hot air”. Even more significant he did not join the blame game which pervades this society far too much. He referred to the Calixte George era when reacting to a comment on police promotions. But an attempt was made in the 1980s when Barnard Humphris, a U.K. police advisor aided in setting exam papers for promotions. But the Police Welfare Association raised objections to the process.

I could not understand why they would object to a system which was intended to replace the traditional system of promotions through favoritism and nepotism. If it is intended to promote officers solely on the basis of exams, then there would be justification for their objection.

I am of the view that promotion should be based on the results of exams, performance appraisals and interviews. The exam would determine the officer’s knowledge of his duties whilst the performance appraisal would indicate inter alia the efficiency and effectiveness of the officer. An officer may be very efficient and effective but not good at exams; conversely one may be very good at exams but a very poor performer. The interview would indicate which officers, after considering their performance at the exams and on the job, are more suited for promotion.

Reports of advisors and commissions into operations of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force have repeatedly advised that the Force should be relieved of many of its agency duties (including Immigration) so that it may concentrate on its primary function of viz the detection and prevention of crime.

The Labour Administration of the 90s commenced the process of setting up a separate Immigration Service but for whatever reasons did not finalize this. The Immigration Service is a specialized one which ideally should be a stand-alone department. But due to the current poor fiscal situation it probably could remain as a specialized unit of the Police Force. In other words, persons should be recruited, trained and promoted as career immigration officers. They should not be interchangeable with regular Police personnel.

The Immigration Unit should have its own specialized ranks providing for a career in that service. We should no longer have a senior Police Officer promoted to head that Unit. To analogize, the Police Bandsman moves up the ranks of the Band on the basis of his musical competence.

Since my article on Customs Valuation, two importers have contacted me on that subject. The appalling revelations made to me, left me flabbergasted. Justice Byron in his judgement on the matter of Customs Valuation made it quite clear what authority the Customs Act provides to the Customs Officer re: The Valuation of Goods.

The importer related, that sometime in 2012, he imported some goods on which he paid over $30,000.00 after producing an invoice and other documents (bank transaction, etc.) to show he paid $7,000.00 per item. Four months thereafter, he received a call from the Customs Officer that he (the importer) should return the goods which were duly cleared, to Customs. The reason for such a request was that the officer saw on the Internet, similar goods valued at $12,000.00. The importer insisted that the invoice value of $7,000.00 as declared at importation was what he paid for the item. The officer proceeded to issue a seizure notice for the goods to which the importer objected through his attorney. As a consequence, the Customs was required to institute legal proceedings to secure the forfeiture of the goods. To date (May 2015) that has not been done and the goods are still at the docks.

A transcript of the relevant section of Justice Byron’s judgement which speaks to the action taken by the officer is stated here under Suit No. 93 of 1989— ‘In his cross examination Mr. Thomas said, “If two people import goods from the same country at different prices as a general rule the lower is raised to the level of the higher”’.

“With due respect, I do not interpret the legislation in this way at all. If as the unchallenged evidence in the case indicates the contract price of the price of tyres is the sole consideration and that price is not influenced by any commercial, financial or other relationship between the seller and the buyer, and no part of the process of any subsequent resale or other disposal of the tyres accrues to the seller that price must be the value on which the Customs duty is based.”

You may recall in the case under reference, the Customs arbitrarily increased the price of each tyre from $3.00 to $5.00.

Of course, where the invoice is false in that it does not reflect the true value of the goods, the Customs, after establishing such falsity would seize the goods. If the importer objects to the seizure, the matter would be taken to court for forfeiture.

I think it is unconscionable to seize some one’s goods and not institute legal proceedings to have the matter determined after three years. The importer said much more than I have revealed but this is a matter for Customs administration.

In conclusion, I would like to suggest to the Comptroller to examine the power conferred on him under Section 125 of the Customs Act. Remember justice delayed is justice denied. If the Department has evidence contrary to the importer’s revelation, the matter should have been before the court since 2012.

By Victor E. Girard
Former Comptroller of Customers


  1. Customs operates like a government within a government. The PM has established a commercial division within the High Court. But it seems to obvious that what is really needed is a Customs Appeals Commission to deal with the many horrendous cases of abuse of power such as those mentioned by the writer.

  2. The customs and excise department needs a comptroller that is effective and can make a decision. Mr fenelon please do the job that you are paid to do and stop making your assistant comptroller run riot on the business community. This guy is doing a disservice to the business sector and making the ease to do business in St.lucia more difficult than it should be and your tenure as comptroller a big joke. Do your job Mr comptroller!!!!!!

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