(Barataria) – The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association commends the Customs and Excise Division on the recent seizures of contraband for the month of April.

In response to the seizures, TTMA’s President Tricia Coosal said, “Such seizures justify the TTMA’s concerns that illicit trade is a threat to all facets of Trinidad and Tobago, including the lives of the citizens, and the economy of this twin-island Republic”.

The TTMA firmly believes that these seizures give credibility to the Government’s focus on tackling illicit trade, including the creation of the Anti-Illicit Trade Task Force by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. In addition to seizing arms and ammunition, members of the manufacturing sector hope that this Task Force would contribute significantly to the reduction of the prevalence of illicit trade in items such as alcohol, cleaning items, pharmaceuticals, and tobacco products.

Additionally, these seizures justify the need for the Government (to continue) to assiduously tackle illicit trade. As a concerned corporate citizen, the TTMA humbly recommends that the Government considers the following actions:

  • Increased training for enforcement officials (e.g., Customs officers, Police officers) where necessary – this is especially important for the detection of illicit trade by local officials, since smugglers use various means to import their goods.
  • Increased collaboration among local, regional and international agencies – local agencies such as Board of Inland Revenue; Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division; Customs and Excise Division; Immigration Division; Intellectual Property Office; Inland Revenue Division; and the Tobacco Control Unit must work together as it is likely that persons are involved in illicit trade of various items simultaneously (e.g., human traffickers may also be smuggling alcoholic beverages or counterfeit clothing). Regional agencies such as the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC), and international agencies such as INTA and Interpol can also provide assistance.
  • Increased focus and inspection at the borders, especially at the Ports and within the Free Trade Zone as this can be a haven for illicit trade and numerous forms of criminal activities.
  • Legislative reform to ensure the penalties for smuggling are in line with the nature of the crime.
  • Lastly – a reference price system to treat with the potential for under-declarations.

With reference to the “Cops to question Bond workers over arms haul” article published in the Trinidad Guardian (Wednesday, 27 April 2021), the TTMA believes that successful prosecution of the persons involved can act as a deterrent to the importers (consignees) and the facilitators of illicit trade. The successful seizure by Customs, in addition to a robust investigation by the TTPS, and a well-executed prosecution by the Government, all contribute to significantly reducing illicit trade.

As the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Coosal reminded citizens to be safe during these times and encouraged the Government to continue the anti-illicit trade fight.