JSC Report recommends- Place Border Protection function of Customs under National Security to stop illegal guns entering T&T

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JSC Report recommends- Place Border Protection function of Customs under National Security to stop illegal guns entering T&T

Trinidad and Tobago is experiencing a security  and “a border control crisis owing to the lack of efficiency of the Customs and Excise Division and the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard”. This is one of the revelations coming out of a Report of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on National Security on ‘the inquiry into the safety, security and protection of citizens with specific reference to the factors that contribute to the prevalence of illegal firearms and gun violence in Trinidad and Tobago, which was laid in Parliament on Friday.’

The report recommended that there is the need to set up a separate agency specifically to monitor and control the entry of contraband in Trinidad and Tobago, because the Customs and Excise Division—the agency with the sole responsibility for the examination and clearance of all cargo entering Trinidad and Tobago tends to put more focus on tax collection.

The JSC recommended that the Border Protection and Security function of the Customs and Excise Division (CED) be separated and placed in a new agency which should fall under the Ministry of National Security as issues of border protection and security are essentially national security concerns.

The committee’s report suggested that the CED would exclusively operate as a financial and administrative division tasked solely with revenue collection and protection, the correct application of trade policy and collecting and disseminating accurate trade related information and statistics,” while the Border and Protection Security Agency focuses on conducting specialised screening, examination and inspection of barrels and containers for illicit cargo; the interdiction of illicit items and persons; and collaboration with relevant law enforcement agencies on the development of strategies geared towards the interception, retrieval and destruction of contraband and the charging and arrest of persons involved.

The report also said TT had 123 illegal ports of which 66 facilitate the entry/exit of illegal firearms. It also said nine legal ports were flagged as key locations for the entry of contraband. Those were Alcoa Tembladora, Caridoc, King’s Wharf, Labidco Port Medway (Freeport), NP Carenage, Pier One (Chaguaramas), Pier Two (Chaguaramas) and Point Lisas Port, according to the SSA.

The Committee reported : “Illegal entry or export of firearms and ammunition occurs at almost all the ports at any given time and the the importation of arms and ammunition are facilitated by individuals/associates who reside in North America; namely Baltimore, Georgia, Miami, New York and Texas in the USA, Canada, some European countries and Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela.”

Customs had found illegal firearms at Shed Ten Port of Spain, Medway, and Plipdeco Warehouse. The report identified: “For the period January to August 2022, the customs scanned 3,998 containers out of 23,000.”

The JSC is chaired by Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland and its other members are Vice Chairman Dr. Paul Richards, Dr. Roodal Moonilal, Ayanna Webster Roy, Kennedy Richards, Randall Mitchell, Jayanti Lutchmedial and Richie Sookhai.