GRA busts modified fishing boat with 80,000 ltrs of smuggled diesel

-captain, crew to face charges

A boat captain and his crew are expected to face smuggling charges soon, following the discovery of more than 80,000 litres of diesel aboard their fishing vessel, which was converted to transport fuel, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) announced yesterday.

In a media release, the agency said that the seizure of the fuel, by officers of its Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID), occurred on September 22nd.

According to the release, the LEID officers intercepted the motor vessel “Plumrose” with a quantity of liquid in excess of 80,000 litres, which was later tested and confirmed to be Hydrocarbons in the form of Diesel fuel. “The officers conducted a rummage of the vessel and it was discovered that even though the intended use of the vessel was listed as “fishing purposes,” the “Plumrose” was converted for fuel transport,” it added.

The captain and crew, the agency said, are currently assisting the GRA with the ongoing investigations, and are expected to be charged shortly. This newspaper has since learnt that a total of four persons are being questioned.

When contacted, GRA Commissioner-General Godfrey Statia told Stabroek News that the interception was made in the Essequibo River. He added that the captain was still in custody, while the remaining crew members were released.

The GRA release said representatives of the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA) were contacted by GRA and the two agencies are working in collaboration on the investigation.

The GRA also said it has seen a rise in fuel smuggling over the past few weeks, while noting “the interception of additional vessels,” which is expected to lead to a substantial amount of revenue being recovered. The GRA used the opportunity to advise persons to cease and desist from smuggling activities, failing which, “the relevant charges will be instituted in a court of law” instead of fines, instead of fines. “The Authority has taken a relentless approach against smuggling and will be working in close collaboration with its sister agencies to minimise these activities,” the release informed.

The GRA also noted zhat over the past year it has recouped billions of dollars in taxes from seizures and auctions, not only from illegal fuel but also from breaches in motor vehicle concessions and Investment Development Agreements, and commonly smuggled items, which include alcohol, foreign imported chicken, and mosquito coils.

In April this year, the GEA had informed that more than 9,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel had been seized for this year alone, while seven discoveries of illegal fuel were made. Those discoveries, the agency said, led to two convictions, while three matters were still ongoing,

In the same month the MT Jubilee was detained with 200,000 gallons of undeclared petroleum aboard. Lynwill, the company that owns the vessel, had to recently paid $36 million in duties before it was released. The fuel was later offloaded at a location in Linden.

The GRA was mum on its probe of possible shortcomings in the investigations of the MT Jubilee seizure. Statia had revealed that since the interception of the vessel, the GRA had picked up some faults in its operations and later discovered that efforts were made to conceal them. “Emanating from that, we have found that there are some shortcomings on our end, especially at the boathouse and we are trying to fix that particular end of it. We found that persons were trying to put the entry in after the boat was boarded… days after the fuel was not marked,” he had said.

Unlike a previous case where the captain was fined $10 million, the captain of MT Jubilee was not fined.

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