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New tags coming to track uncustomed tobacco and alcohol

Published:Friday | April 1, 2016 | 4:00 AM
The Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime division seized these cigarettes in a St. Andrew community in December last.

The Jamaica Customs Agency will be implementing a tax stamp system to monitor alcohol and cigarettes imported into the island as part of the effort to protect government revenue, according to Commissioner of Customs Major Richard Reese.

Jamaica Customs said the electronically readable stamp will be placed on the products at the source by either the manufacturer or the distributor. That will allow Jamaica Customs' Contraband Enforcement Team to monitor alcohol and cigarettes on local shelves or elsewhere in the local market.

Speaking with the Financial Gleaner, Reese said the new tag system will be one more tool in the kit of Jamaica Customs in executing its mandate of looking out for uncustomed goods, thus protecting revenue.

The system, which will be introduced on a phased basis, allows for the authority to verify the authenticity of the products.

The Jamaica Information Service quoted Reese as saying that once the Contraband Enforcement Team or the police conduct inspections or surveillance and detect alcohol or cigarettes without the requisite stamp, "those goods will be confiscated ... and the individuals will be charged," referring to vendors or proprietors of establishments in which they are found.

Reese addressed the issue following a meeting with Minister of National Security Robert Montague and State Minister Senator Pearnel Charles Jr at Jamaica Customs' Newport East premises in Kingston last Wednesday.

"Anything that we find in your market that doesn't have the tax stamp is, in fact, contraband. Some countries include pharmaceuticals because we have quite a few products such as Viagra and Cialis that are counterfeit," he said.

Reese explained that Jamaica Customs and Tax Administration Jamaica have long had concerns regarding the control of alcohol and cigarettes in the trade. "The Ministry of Finance also has a similar concern," he said, adding that the initiative will protect revenue in terms of excise and customs duties.

In December last year, The Gleaner reported that a stash of counterfeit cigarettes valued at more than $65 million was seized during an operation in an upper St Andrew community.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force's Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Division, which led the operations, said 154 boxes, each containing 50 cartons of Craven A and Newport cigarettes, were found in a room in the residential community.

The items were found in a four-by-four room which was stacked from ground to ceiling, the police said then.

The police said at the time that no one was arrested in connection with the seizure but indicated that investigators have identified an Asian man as a person of interest.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com