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Sep 24, 2020

No Further Action to be Taken Against Customs Officers and Local Importer in PG

Police on Tuesday was also exuberant about a bust in southern Belize.  But as it turns out an internal investigation conducted by the Customs and Excise Department into the importation of cargo from Guatemala over the weekend has revealed that Richard Garbutt, the officer in charge of the Punta Gorda location, acted in accordance with his duties when he facilitated the arrival of a shipment of groceries.  On the night of September nineteenth, Garbutt, along with Junior Customs Officer Jarrett Tillett, aided a local businessman with the offloading of a vessel carrying a significant quantity of grocery items.  During the process seven individuals, including the two customs officers, were busted by PG police and subsequently charged for failure to use a mask.  Due to suspicion that they were handling uncustommed goods, a separate inquiry was launched into the incident.  It was subsequently determined that the cargo vessel Smilly 3 had departed from Livingston, Guatemala following the reopening of its borders and ports on September eighteenth.  Because of the significant order of goods in Guatemala Donaldo Chun requested the delivery of his cargo to Punta Gorda.  According to Chun, he made several attempts to contact the Senior Customs Officer via WhatsApp but was unsuccessful.  When he finally got in touch with Garbutt on Saturday evening, the vessel was already in Belizean waters so the instruction was given for it to dock at the PG customs pier. The goods would be offloaded and stored on the compound, in the custody of the Customs and Excise Department, until Tuesday when it would be officially processed.  That is the sworn statement given by Chun in an importers report which details what transpired.  That account, we have learnt,  also corroborates similar statements provided by the customs officials.  As we’ve reported, the police department acted under the suspicion that Garbutt and Tillett were abetting an illegal operation since the customs office in Punta Gorda remains administratively closed. But the clincher is that while the Quarantine Act stipulates that the borders are to remain close to all other forms of traffic, the movement of commercial cargo is not prohibited.  Still the custom officers were charged in connection with the vessel. This afternoon, News Five spoke with Commissioner of Police Chester Williams about the matter.


On the Phone: Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“The two customs officers were arrested and charged for inciting a vessel to enter the country illegally and they appeared in court and they were granted bail.  The matter, as it relates to the uncustommed goods, has been referred to the Comptroller of Customs who is going to deal with that aspect of the investigation.”


After reviewing the facts provided by the importer and the customs officers, the department has decided not to proceed with charges against any of the men. 

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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