Beautiful Virgin Islands

Friday, Sep 30, 2022

Customs was under COI pressure; integrity questioned - Premier

Customs was under COI pressure; integrity questioned - Premier

Public officers — particularly those within Her Majesty‘s Customs — were under some degree of pressure from the Commission of Inquiry (COI) before last week’s crackdown on delinquent vessels in the charter yacht industry.
Premier Andrew Fahie gave that indication during a joint press conference with the Commissioner of Her Majesty‘s Customs, the Director of the Virgin Islands Shipping Registry, the Director of the BVI Tourist Board and the Vice President of Operations at The Moorings.

Several companies, including The Moorings were heavily fined and penalised last week for being delinquent with government regulations.

“The public officers have been under quite some strain over the last year or so, especially Customs, from the Commission of Inquiry stating clearly certain areas that they were questioning on whether the enforcements were being done or not and questioning in terms of what I would call the integrity of the organisation to some extent,” Premier Fahie said.

He expressed that where there were clear laws to be enforced, the Customs Department did not just enforce those laws, but continued to work with all the agencies to ensure that they fell in line with new and existing regulations and gave a timeframe for them to do so.

While adding further clarity to his remarks, the Premier stated: “All public officers, including Customs, were under the microscope to see if they have been true to the letter of all policies and all laws.“

As a result of this, he said officers would have been mindful to ensure they stayed true to any policies or legislation that was in place.

However, Premier Fahie denied that this pressure is what led to last week’s crackdown.

Meanwhile, the Premier said it would be difficult to say what time was most appropriate to conduct a law enforcement exercise, adding that he had seen persons inconvenienced through the actions of law enforcement all around the world.

“When it happens in the BVI, we are smaller and it’s mushroomed and I understand the question from a tourism angle. But I would say that it’s a challenge when these things happen but we also have to look at safety,“ the Premier said in response to a question about whether last week’s crackdown could have been handled differently.

He further noted that the issue of the Virgin Islands’ reputation was also at stake and suggested that the flip side of the safety of all stakeholders needed to be examined.

According to the Premier, the issue of law enforcement in such instances is almost a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” business.

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