Mr. Martines (left) and Mr. Nisbett (right).

Customs officers have the power to arrest individuals found in breach of the law under the Customs Act, No. 19 of 2014, said Elmar Martines, Assistant Comptroller of Customs for Investigations, while appearing on the radio-television show “Working for You” Jan. 29.

“When we come into contact with any perpetrator, we have to carry out those same procedures in terms of making arrests, charging the offenders based on Customs offences, and we hand them over to the Police where they will be taken into custody,” he said, noting customs officers charge based on customs offences and police officers charge on police offences.

“If you smuggle, let’s say guns and ammunition, into the country, the police will have an interest in that as a matter of investigation as well because they are the relevant authorities in regards to the fire and gun ammunition. Customs would prefer our customs charges. So, in a situation like that, the Police will prosecute the matter on behalf of Customs and of course the Police,” he explained, adding based on the Customs Act, the Comptroller of Customs has the authority to ask the Commissioner of Police to prosecute on his behalf.

Department Pursues Paperless Environment as it Embraces Sustainability

The Customs and Excise Department is embracing the use of online tools as part of a broader strategy to promote sustainability.

“One of the things we have been trying to accomplish is to arrive in that paperless environment. We are steadfast in achieving that goal and we are just about there,” said Jervin Nisbett, Customs Senior 4, Courier Operations Manager, on “Working for You.” “We have a few things that we are going to be rolling out shortly and we are going to be right there on the cutting edge of technology within the department.”

Mr. Nisbett said some aspects of a paperless environment are already in place.

“Right now, you can go online and get all the customs information that you require. We have a lot of information available to you, so it is not like once ago when you had to run up to Bird Rock or run to a customs office,” he said, noting the public is free to peruse the department’s website

He added those who desire to import goods can also utilize the website to calculate duties and taxes before purchasing.

He also highlighted the use of the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), a computerized customs management system in Customs operations which covers most foreign trade procedures.  The system handles manifests and customs declarations, accounting procedures, transit and suspense procedures. ASYCUDA generates trade data that can be used for statistical economic analysis. The programme has helped officers to speed up the time for processing the goods from ship to shelf in a timelier yet border-secure manner.

Mr. Nisbett acknowledged getting to a paperless environment is a work in progress and the St. Kitts-Nevis Customs and Excise Department is evolving, noting “we are doing our best to make sure that all the importers are satisfied and are dealt with” fairly and expeditiously.