Booze bust valued at $5M

-nine on station bail

Nine persons who were held in connection with a $5M shipment of contraband alcoholic beverages have all been released on station bail.

Stabroek News has learnt that six Guyanese, two Vincentians and a Jamaican were released on bail at the Brickdam police station on Thursday and yesterday. The men are expected to report to Customs House on Tuesday.

The GRA yesterday issued a statement that the crew of the MV Mr. John, which consisted of three Vincentians and one Guyanese, was intercepted off the coast of Montrose and a search was conducted.

The international vessel, which is registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, contained an assortment of alcoholic beverages, which was also detained. The cargo included 670 cases of Heineken beer, 47 cases of Smirnoff Vodka, one case of Hennessy and 23 bottles Johnnie Walker Black. The GRA valued the cargo at $5M.

The GRA said that information received by the Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID) officers after questioning the crew of the vessel indicated that they were to rendezvous with a smaller vessel to discharge a quantity of the beverages that they were transporting. The smaller vessel, MV Amazing Grace, was also detained. Investigations are continuing.

According to a source, an East Coast Demerara (ECD) businessman, who claimed ownership of the alcoholic beverages, was released on $50,000 station bail while an associate was asked to post $15,000 bail. Reports are that the MV Mr. John departed St Maarten in the Caribbean with its cargo of booze. Stabroek News understands that the Guyana Revenue Authority received a tip-off from a source that the vessel was moored in the Atlantic in the vicinity of Plaisance on the East Coast Demerara.

A smaller vessel was being used to off-load the contraband which was being ferried to a location at Montrose.

A source told this newspaper yesterday that the vessel encountered mechanical difficulties while in the vicinity of the Pomeroon sometime on Monday last. The vessel was then repaired and continued on its way to the ECD, when the GRA received the tip-off.

An operation was subsequently launched and the vessel’s occupants were detained around 8 pm on Wednesday in the Atlantic. The smaller vessel was also detained and early Thursday morning. Both vessels were searched following which the beverages were discovered.

Stabroek News understands that several barrels containing personal effects were also held by the custom officers.

Meanwhile, the GRA said that the motor vessels it acquired to boost its anti-smuggling operation are proving to be an invaluable asset. The use of these vessels has significantly boosted the GRA’s capacity to combat smuggling in the riverain areas and along the coast, it said.

The GRA called the recent increase in seizures a reflection of its commitment to investigate and detain persons guilty of tax evasion.

As a result, it said that the GRA has established a heavy LEID presence across the country. “This move by the revenue authority has been reaping benefits and the agency has every intention of maintaining and intensifying its presence,” it added.

Persons are encouraged to report any illegal activity that can compromise tax revenue collection to the GRA’s intelligence hotline number 225-6687.