Commissioner of Customs, Major Richard Reese, says the Customs Department has seized over $1 billion worth of illicit items, at the island’s air and sea ports, since the start of the year.
The seizures include significant quantities of narcotics, guns and ammunition, counterfeit cigarettes, and various articles associated with the lottery scam, including debit and credit cards.
Outlining details of the confiscations while addressing the Kiwanis Club of Kingston's weekly luncheon at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel on September 18, Major Reese said the narcotics included: 1.3 million kilogrammes of marijuana, with a street value of $481.8 million; 0.93 kg. of hashish valued at $565,080; and 159.2 kilogrammes of cocaine worth $360.6 million. Additionally, he said some 15,000 sticks of counterfeit cigarettes, with a street value of $330,000, were also seized.
The Commissioner said currency seizures, which amounted to over $78 million, included US$392,309 (approximately $35 million); and €313,500 ($43 million). Seizures linked to the lottery scam included: 260 credit/debit cards, 64 cheques and money orders, and 96 packages containing various articles. A total of 10 firearms and 6,577 rounds of ammunition, were also found during routine checks of inbound cargo.
Major Reese pointed out that methods used to smuggle in firearms included concealment in air compressors and televisions, which were detected at public bonded warehouses. Other methods used included concealment in food items, such as bags of bulk flour and motor vehicle parts and accessories.
Drug concealment, he informed, included packaging inside craft items, and food items, such as biscuits. Additionally, he said methods of currency concealment included placements in tins of coffee and popcorn, as well as false compartments in suitcases. He said the latter method was used earlier this year to stash US$60,000 that was discovered at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.
Major Reese attributed the Customs Department’s breakthroughs to enhanced risk investigations and intelligence, which he assured “are yielding tremendous success."
He also informed that the Department has intensified its joint operations with allied agencies, such as the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF); Jamaica Defence Force (JDF); Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ); Financial Investigations Division (FID); and Revenue Protection Division (RPD). Further, he said the Customs Department is continuing its special operations, in tandem with their international partners, targeting the smuggling of illicit and counterfeit imports.
Major Reese said the Customs Department will seek to maintain collaborations established with overseas stakeholder partners, as well as international security and border protection agencies and local law enforcement agencies.
These partnerships, he assured, will be underpinned by the staging of sting operations, as well as enforcement of the law “to its fullest,” to maintain and enhance the integrity and security of Jamaica’s Customs facilities and air and seaports, thereby ensuring that they are not breached.