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Sep 22, 2020

Seven Men, Including Senior Customs Officer, Busted with Contraband in PG

The borders are closed but illegal activity and contraband continue to flourish. In the south, there was a sizeable bust of contraband goods in Punta Gorda under the cover of darkness on Saturday night which has resulted in criminal charges being brought against seven individuals, including Senior Customs Officer Richard Garbutt and Junior Customs Officer Jareth Tillett.  Both men were reportedly facilitating the unauthorized arrival and discharge of a vessel from Guatemala containing a shipment of uncustommed grocery items when they were nabbed by police.  According to Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, the men were busted while offloading the boat and transporting its contents to a delivery truck on the customs compound.  Upon being questioned, Garbutt, who is the Officer in Charge of the local branch of the Customs and Excise Department in Punta Gorda, told police that they were simply assisting a vessel that was experiencing mechanical difficulties.  Further investigation revealed that the men were aiding businessman Donaldo Chun from Punta Gorda with the unlawful entry of the contraband items.  ComPol Williams provides additional details of what transpired over the weekend.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“On Saturday night, sometime after ten p.m., police got information of activities at the Punta Gorda customs pier.  Based on that the police went to an adjacent pier and from there they saw a boat being unloaded.  Police subsequently went over to the customs building and sought to get in but they were denied entry.  Eventually, the customs officer on duty came to where the police officers were and the police asked the customs officer what was going on in the compound.  The customs officer replied that it is a vessel that came in late due to mechanical problems and that the vessel was being unloaded.  And so, the officers explained to the customs man that they need to go in and check because from the information that we gathered was that the boat was coming with illegal immigrants.  And so the customs officer brought the individuals to the front where the officers were so that the officers could have seen them.  When they came there were five Belizeans and I think two Guatemalans but they do have legal status in Belize.  I got a call at that point from the officers and they explained to me what was taking place and I directed the officers to ensure that they get into the compound and to detain everybody because at that particular hour to be discharging a vessel and more so there are protocols that have been put in place due to the COVID-19 situation and following the Big Creek incident that must be followed.  And so the officers got in and when they got in the boat had left and the two trucks that were supposed to remove the cargo from the customs compound were in the compound still, loaded with the goods and so I also directed them to take custody of the goods and the truck and I would communicate with the comptroller of customs.”

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