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Christmas stolen! - Foreign postal workers accused of stealing gifts meant for Jamaicans

Published:Sunday | December 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson

Scores of Jamaicans could be without gifts sent to them from overseas through the postal service as some are being stolen and officials in Jamaica say the theft happens before the packages arrive here.

According to local postal workers, they are being unfairly blamed for the stolen items as it is in the foreign countries that the items go missing.

"We always get the blame for it, but trust me, majority of the times, it is the people at the post office in foreign who take out the things them," a postal worker, who asked not to be named, told The Sunday Gleaner.

"I'm not saying that it (stealing) doesn't happen out here, too, but it is really not as easy to do as most people think," added the postal worker.

Officials of the local postal service, Jamaica Post, also charged that packages are being tampered with overseas.

"It does happen, but we work with our international partners overseas whenever there are discrepancies. They are notified, and whatever investigation that is needed to be done will be done," said Kathy-Ann Yetman, public relations officer for Jamaica Post.

Yetman last week declined to provide statistics regarding the frequency of such incidents, arguing that such queries had to be made through the Access to Information Act, which can take a minimum of 30 working days to process.

She, however, said the incidents of postal theft have decreased significantly since a 2013 operation in the United Kingdom (UK) in which one Royal Mail postal worker was arrested for tampering with mail destined for Jamaica.

Yetman was quick to point out that the UK is not the only area of concern, as mail coming from the United States and Canada are tampered with from time to time.

TAMPERED MAIL DELIVERED

She explained that mail from which items are stolen are not usually sent back to the foreign country, but they are handed over to the receiver, who then has to file a complaint to have an investigation started.

According to Yetman, that investigation is done by local and international agencies, "which are usually cooperative".

She explained: "If something is damaged [or stolen], then the persons are notified that the item has been damaged and that we have repackaged it and it is sent forward to them.

"In the context that you are talking about now, ... if a box comes and a phone is not in there, you don't send back the empty box. We fill out the documentation and do the relevant investigation.

"After the process is finished and we [find out] what happened, there are various levels of compensation for different products," said Yetman.

Theft is a common occurrence during the months leading up to Christmas, one of the busiest periods at Jamaica Post, which, over the years, has expanded its offerings from regular mailing to courier services, aiming to better compete in an Internet-based environment.

A Sunday Gleaner probe has uncovered that several packages from overseas are turned over to Jamaica Post with items missing every year at this time.

According to employees at the Central Sorting Office, which receives and disseminates all packages mailed to the island, workers there are often blamed for stolen items when, in most cases, the items are snatched by overseas postal workers.

ARRIVES WITH SEAL

"All of the mail come with a tamper-proof seal when they reach Jamaica. So we get a package of mail seal up and everything here. But when we open the mail, sometimes you don't even have to look good, you see that they were opened already," said one woman, who has been employed to the postal service for more than a decade.

Kingston resident Sheldon Dacres has sworn never to use the postal services again after a package sent to him from the UK was found tampered with and a cell phone missing.

"The phone could have got stolen from overseas and it could have been stolen here, I agree. But I don't like how that look," Dacres told The Sunday Gleaner.

"I am convinced is out here them thief it because everything else - the charger and an extra battery - was in the package except the phone. That don't look like is overseas that do," added Dacres as he repeated his vow never to use the postal service again.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com