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Rice shipment intercepted with cocaine wasn’t scanned – GRA

A shipment of rice being loaded a Venezuela-bound ship. (File photo)

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) on Monday said the shipment of rice in which cocaine was found was not scanned because the profile did fit a high-risk category.

GRA’s Commissioner General, Kurshid Sattaur said the risk-profiling based on several criteria, including their reputation, shipping history, destination country and type of goods concluded that only physical examination was required.

“As such, the shipment was not profiled for scanning, but for physical examination. Hence, based on the risk assessed, the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) was not required to be present during the examination of the rice shipped. However, physical examination was conducted by the Customs Officer assigned to the Goods Examination Unit (GEU) prior to the sealing of the container,” he said.

The physical examination, the GRA explained, entailed the observation of the packing or stuffing of the container with the bags of rice.

The GRA further said that the bags would have already been sealed via a process from which the GRA is excluded.

The 69 packets of cocaine in a shipment of Guyanese rice were unearthed in the Dominican Republic on August 12, eleven days after leaving Georgetown for Venezuela. The rice was being transhipped through Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

The GRA stated categorically that all Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were followed by its officers in the processing of documents and examination of goods prior to the said export.

The authority explained that based on request from the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), rice shipments coming through that entity are granted via Prior to Processing (PTP); a system which is utilized under specifically defined circumstances.

In accordance with the SOPs the GRDB would apply to ship on behalf of the ‘exporter’, prior to processing of the Customs Declarations Form C72. The GRBD would then supply the covering letter regarding the PTP along with the C72 form, the invoice and the CARICOM Certificate of Origin. “These documents are then subject to our risk profiling system.”

The GRA said that systems are periodically reviewed and internal controls strengthened to ensure the integrity of all consignments shipped from Guyana. The organization assured that it remains committed to such reviews and to ensuring that SOPs are followed by officials.

“Investigations are still being conducted at an inter-agency level and the findings of same will be made available upon conclusion,” the GRA added.

Two Guyanese customs officers and two persons associated with a local rice milling company have been already questioned by the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU). Authorities in the Dominican Republic have arrested a Venezuelan man with false shipping container seals that matched those on the container. He had travelled from Jamaica where the Liberia-registered ship had first docked with the rice.