Stabroek News news item, Tuesday 06 January 2009
Customs bribery probe President still studying report
Published: January 6, 2009 in News
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