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Customs operates with ‘professionalism and fairness’

HM Customs (Photo by Akil Simmons)

The Department of Customs defended its practices yesterday and said that 99 per cent of goods imported to the island were released without incident.

Lucinda Pearman, the Collector of Customs, stressed that her team strove to be “proficient and polite” at all times while making sure that items were cleared efficiently.

The comments came after several businesses accused the Customs Department of withholding goods for months for arbitrary reasons.

Ms Pearman said: "The rare instances of delay are predominantly due to late declarations and the submission of incomplete or false documentation by the relevant importers or their agents.

“Importers of prohibited and counterfeit goods may expect their goods to be seized by customs.”

She added: “We pride ourselves on our integrity and impartiality in all customs clearance procedures.

"We invite anyone experiencing undue delays in the customs clearance process to contact us at customs@gov.bm."

A statement from the department highlighted that it operated “strictly within the confines of the law”, and treated every organisation and member of the public with “respect and without fear or favour”.

Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, added: "The Department of Customs is a critical player in maintaining the security and economic stability of our island.

"We must recognise that most interactions with the department are completed without complaint.

“This reality reflects our customs clearance processes' high standards and effectiveness."

He added: “We are focused on continuous improvement and open dialogue with the community to promote informed compliance with customs laws and to ensure that Bermuda's customs operations serve the needs of all stakeholders effectively.”

The Government encouraged people and businesses to review the Customs Department's outline on declaration and clearance procedures.

The department’s homepage also offers resources and information to make sure that declaration documents are properly prepared to mitigate potential delays.

It came under fire last week after vendors claimed the detainment of some imports went beyond the scope of law.

Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, drew attention to the problem during a parliamentary session on February 9.

Jo-Ann Cousins-Simpson, the medical director of Bermuda Alzheimer’s and Memory Services, said that customs unnecessarily held every shipment of crucial medication the clinic received last year.

In a story published in The Royal Gazette last Wednesday, she said Beams had a shipment of medication detained for the previous month.

One vendor earlier said it ultimately took the Attorney-General to order the release of $30,000 worth of stock.

He said shipments of the same brand of shoes were repeatedly held by customs on suspicion of being counterfeit items, even though previous imports had been checked and released.

Another merchant said that she had cases of electric equipment held for more than two weeks after they demanded proof of purchase for items that allowed a 30-day grace period.

She claimed that one of the shipments appeared to have gone unsearched despite being held and accused customs of leaving her calls and e-mails unanswered.

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Published February 26, 2024 at 7:58 am (Updated February 26, 2024 at 7:58 am)

Customs operates with ‘professionalism and fairness’

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