Inefficiencies, illegal arms causing cargo delays, says Imbert

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Finance Minister Colm Imbert – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

INNEFFICIENCIES at transit sheds and a proliferation of arms and ammunition coming into the airport are leading to longer waiting times for the release of cargo at Piarco, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert said on Wednesday.

He was responding to questions from Newsday during a virtual press conference.

“I met with stakeholders very recently, and some of these transit sheds have arms and ammunition coming in all the time,” he said.

He spoke of one particular shed at Piarco which had to be shut down periodically.

“They (customs) were not happy at all about the way illegal things have been coming into the transit shed.”

He said government is working on improving the ease of doing business, but also has to keep an eye out for criminal activity.

“These things have two sides – you have the ease of doing business, which we must improve, so we want to get things in and out quickly; but then you have things like under-invoicing, tax evasion, and then you have the problem of importation of illegal arms and ammunition.”

He said customs is considering consolidating all the bonds into one.

“It’s an active matter under active discussion and we will hopefully find a mutually satisfactory solution.”

In April, after a two-day symposium where Caricom heads gathered to discuss crime as a public health issue, the region’s heads agreed to declare war on illicit firearms, some of which come through legal ports of entry, including airports.

In April three men, including two Trinidad and Tobago nationals, were arrested, charged and pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle firearms into TT, which were intercepted by local and US federal officers in 2021. The three men – Tevin O’Brian Oliver, Jameal Kaia Phillip, and Edward Solomon King III ­– admitted to being part of a gun-smuggling ring that unlawfully smuggled guns into the country through legal ports, by hiding them in boxing/fight equipment, speakers and household items.

The weapons intercepted in 2021 included a Taurus G2C 9mm pistol, an SAR Arms SAR-9 9mm pistol, a Taurus G3 9mm pistol and a Ruger Security 9mm pistol. Investigators also found an assortment of ammunition, police sirens, police blue lights, bulletproof vests and magazine holders.