Customs bribery probe President still studying report

President Bharrat Jagdeo is studying the report released by the Auditor General’s office, which probed bribery allegations at Customs, and is due to pronounce on the findings shortly.

“He intends to release the report and make the findings public, but this would have to be after he has studied it, and currently he is perusing it,” an official at the Office of the President said yesterday when asked about the status of the report. It was handed to the President two weeks ago.

There is no clear indication as to when the report would be made public and the official declined to say whether the President was almost through with it, declaring only that Jagdeo would keep his word and “report to the Guyanese public shortly”.

The report offers details into the bribery scandal that rocked the Customs and Trade Administration (CTA), and documents a series of interviews with those alleged to have been involved. It also contains key recommendations as regards officials at customs and a string of others allegedly tied to the fraud; suggesting that criminal charges be instituted in some instances. Specifically, the report recommends charges against Fidelity Invest-ments, the company at the centre of the investigation and the scandal.

Sources have observed that the findings ought to be released in a timely manner given the gravity of report, and the enormity of the fraud.

The President had indicated at a press briefing just over two weeks ago that he was in receipt of the report, but that he had to study it before releasing the findings. Jagdeo promised that he would report back to the public on it, adding that it would have to be some time in the new year.

Auditor General (ag) Deodat Sharma, who headed the task force investigation, had confirmed more than three weeks ago that the report was completed and was at the time, “waiting on the President to receive it”. Sources said the investigation found that officers were openly deceptive about the contents of the containers they had examined and cleared at the wharf for Fidelity as they insisted and even falsified documents stating that soft drinks had been imported by Fidelity.

Fidelity had disputed this since the investigation first commenced stating that the company had imported Polar beer and not soft drinks.

It is believed that at least one high-ranking official within the GRA, who had been embroiled in the Polar beer scandal involving Fidelity, will face disciplinary action as recommended by the task force, for incompetence; more so failing to detect the corrupt practices of officers working in that division.

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