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GRA defends officers in arrest of Tabatinga resident, seizure of smuggled alcohol

In relation to a joint operation in Lethem on Thursday which led to the seizure of a quantity of alcohol and the subsequent arrest of a businessman, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) claims that its officers followed protocol.

“The Revenue Authority noting the various reports circulating in the print and social media concerning a seizure of a quantity of “uncustomed” goods during a joint operation in Lethem, Region, 9 wishes to set the record straight, and hereby advise the general public that at all times, lawful procedures were properly executed,” the GRA said in a statement on Saturday evening.

The statement came hours after the Guyana Police Force (GPF) disclosed that ranks from the Major Crimes Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department is travelling to Lethem to investigate the incident which occurred at Tabatinga, Lethem and also involved members of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU).

CANU previously stated that the businessman Lyndon Franklin was seen entering Guyana from Brazil in his lorry and was. He was subsequently seen emptying suspected smuggled and undeclared goods in his yard when he was intercepted by officers from the enforcement agencies.

GRA said on the day of the incident, the officers properly identified themselves, as is standard operating procedure, and stated the purpose of the visit.  They were however met with acts of aggression, insults and hostility by persons within the said premises who denied the team of officers from gaining access to the premises, as is required by law.

“After a brief stand-off, the team of officers finally gained entry to the premises where they were met with further acts including aggression and ferocious dogs. Despite several requests for the ferocious dogs to be secured, these were aggressively denied. The dogs were however secured based on more intense approach taken by the officers, and thereafter, the premises was searched in accordance with Section 209 of the Customs Act, Chapter 82:01, which led to a large quantity of uncustomed items being found concealed,” the Revenue body stated.

The officers  uncovered 30 Cases Blackstone Whiskey Liquor, 9 cases Blend Seven Whiskey and 4 cases of Skarloff Liquor in Franklin’s motor lorry. In addition, several other bottles of Liquor found in his premises and seized.

Franklin was arrested and is expected to be placed before the Lethem Magistrate’s Court for breaches of the Customs Act.

According to reports in the press, Franklin also alleged that during the operation, CANU agents broke down the gate to the premises and even assaulted one of the Supermarket’s owners.

CANU did not deny this occurred but said it is holistically reviewing the incident to address the need for further training of its Ranks to ensure its Ranks are able to withstand civilian agitation and intimidations.

Additionally, both agencies have warned against smuggling noting that they will continue to maintain a “zero tolerance approach” to such activities in accordance with the laws.