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Finance Minister Shaw again declares war on customs evaders

Published:Friday | September 9, 2016 | 9:00 AMNeville Graham
Finance Minister Audley Shaw

Finance Minister Audley Shaw has declared open season on those who continue to evade Customs or otherwise smuggle illicit goods on to the market.

He says the Government, through Jamaica Customs Agency, is moving to cut out the corruption at the wharves, noting that it was untenable that some businesses are paying full duty and bringing in their goods, while competing against others who are not paying their share.

It both fosters unfair trade and bilks the Government of revenue, the minister said, while declaring that those who have had a good run bringing in uncustomed goods into Jamaica, some of which are dangerous to health, should consider those days as coming to an end.

"A lot of people in a lot of places - and they know, when they hear my voice on television or on the radio, they know who they are - you've had a good run. We are going to leave no stone unturned to clean up this system, create better equity for all Jamaicans and, at the end of the day, have a cleaner, healthier and a better quality of life," Shaw declared in delivering remarks at the American Chamber of Commerce Jamaica President's Breakfast on Thursday.

Speaking afterwards with the Financial Gleaner, Shaw said there will be no more openings for illicit imports.

"We're gonna close that door!" Shaw declared, while noting he had made it his personal mission to go after Customs cheats.

"I will be relentless with it. I am in relentless pursuit of all those people who continue to import illicitly and deprive the Government and people of Jamaica of the revenue and also cause an unfair playing field for all those importers who are doing their imports legally," Shaw said.

A more efficient system for customs, ASYCUDA, is expected to assist the drive to bring evaders into the net. But Shaw acknowledged that no system can entirely eliminate leakage, saying it can't factor for people who are corrupt.

He said the effort to root out corruption at Customs is going to require more courage from Jamaica Customs Agency, and honourable execution of their duties by customs officers and people who work in the port security system.

Shaw issued a blunt warning to those who do not come on board.

"Our workers at customs and security services must understand that we are going to be watching them more carefully. I intend to put in more CCTV systems to watch our workers at work. That is now practised on a regular basis abroad. So our customs officers and port security officers must understand that there is going to be a camera watching you; because we want a level playing field," Shaw warned.

"We need to clean up this country and the corruption at the wharves is going to be part of that process because, at the end of the day, it will help us to build a better country, a more honourable country. Our young people can grow up with a sense that there is law and order," he said.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com