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Sunday, Nov 27, 2022

COI report: Vet all Customs and Immigration officers urgently!

COI report: Vet all Customs and Immigration officers urgently!

The Commission of Inquiry (COI) report has called for an urgent vetting of some of the territory’s law-enforcement agencies.
Particular focus was given to Her Majesty‘s (HM) Customs and the Immigration Department.

In the report, Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom said he could not exclude the possibility that corruption may exist among officers in HM Customs and the Immigration Department.

“The environment in each – but particularly the former – is conducive to such,” Sir Gary said.

As a remedy, Sir Gary recommended that “independent vetting of all current HM Customs and Immigration Officers at all levels needs to be undertaken on an urgent basis.”

“Such vetting,” he said, “should include confirming whether there has been a failure to disclose information such as a second job or a conflict of interest which, if it had been disclosed, would compromise the individual’s ability to fulfil his or her role and whether the officer has made proper financial declarations.”

Sir Gary also suggested ringing changes within the BVI’s police force and prison service but noted they need not be included in the vetting exercise unless otherwise recommended by an ongoing review.

“On the assumption that the ongoing reviews in the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) and HM Prison Service will undertake or recommend vetting, those bodies need not be included in this exercise,” Sir Gary said.

He continued: “If that is not the case, then the RVIPF and HM Prison Service should also be subject to the same process. As well as providing reassurance to the BVI public, the outcome of this process will inform the wider review I have recommended.”

According to Sir Gary, Police Commissioner (CoP) Mark Collins was already conducting appropriate investigations into corruption within the RVIPF with a view to identifying and removing any officers who are corrupt and (if appropriate) prosecuting them.

“In my view, given the risk of such corruption also within HM Customs, I consider that those investigations should extend to HM Customs,” the Commissioner wrote.

The Commissioner said it is vital that the public have confidence in the integrity of HM Customs, and such an investigation will assist in engendering that confidence.
He suggested that the investigations should be made by officers appointed to the task by the CoP, and should be independent of HM Customs.

“Such investigations should only extend to the Immigration Department if the CoP considers such an extension appropriate. I do not make a positive recommendation that there should be such an investigation into that department,” Sir Gary added.

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