by Shawn Cumberbatch
Customs officers facing resistance will be given the power to “break open” doors and other places to seize items as part of new efforts to crack down on people who might be flouting the island’s import and export laws.
And companies and others purchasing items from overseas will also have to face audits aimed at verifying that goods in their possession correspond to the related declarations.
It’s part of amendments to the Customs Act “to authorise the Comptroller to undertake post-clearance audits” and related matters.
The legislation, which first has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament, specified that “an officer authorised by the comptroller may, by day or by night, enter into and search any house, shop, cellar, warehouse, room or the place and inspect and search the premises as well as any goods, books and documents found therein, whether the books and documents are in manual or electronic format”.
The power to detain and seize items and the ability to lawfully break into property when resistance is met is also covered in the amended laws.
“Where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that … any goods that are liable to forfeiture … or any books or documents even in electronic format, which are related to the commission of an offend are kept or concealed in any house, shop, cellar, warehouse, room or other place, an officer authorised by the Comptroller may enter the premises by day or by night and examine, search for, detain and seize as liable to forfeiture or remove any goods or detain or seize any books or documents in electronic format,” the legislation stated.
It added that customs officers “shall in the case of resistance break open any door, chest, trunks and other packages and force and remove any other impediment or obstruction to such entry or seizure”.
In the case of post clearance audits, Customs will, as part of its efforts to “ascertain the accuracy of the particulars contained in the declaration”, “inspect any documents and data relating to the operation in respect of the goods in question or to prior or subsequent commercial operations involving those goods, and … examine the goods or take samples where it is possible to do so”.
Such inspections would be carried out at the importer’s premises or that of his representative, or “any person directly or indirectly involved in the operation of the business or any other person in possession of the documents and data referred to”.
“The comptroller or any of his officers so authorised may, in order to comply with this Act, exercise control over goods … imported into Barbados, exported from Barbados or moved in the course of business within Barbados as well as any books or documents relating to those goods, both in manual and electronic form,” the amendment said in part.
“The comptroller or any of his officers shall have the power to demand any information in respect of the goods, books or documents … from any importer, exporter, or representative,” it added.
And in addition to being able to use “appropriate scientific means for control purposes”, the changes will also allow Customs representatives to “demand from any importer, exporter or representative within a reasonable time and at a specified place any information or the production of any book or document in either manual or electronic format”. [email protected]
by Shawn Cumberbatch