JANUARY 19th, 2008
Leave the Customs alone!!!
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Many Grenadians have been wondering in recent months what exactly is the Chinese building on lands bordering with the Grenada Sugar Factory at Woodlands, St. George's.

The general feeling was that the Chinese might be putting down a complex to house its many construction workers for projects which they hope to do on the island. Some persons felt that the building was too good and modern to place construction workers to live and that something more elaborate was in the making.

It is now turning out that the building that became the talk of the town due to its fast-paced construction and outstanding stature is a hotel with all the modern amenities. And what is even more is that fact that the Comptroller of Customs is investigating the Chinese firm behind the project for violating the laws of the land by abusing the duty-free concession granted for goods used in rebuilding the cricket stadium at Queen's Park.

GRENADA TODAY is fully cognisant of the fact that this latest development could be highly embarrassing at a time when government officials in St. George's and Beijing are celebrating the Third Anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

This newspapers holds strongly to the view that the Comptroller of Customs and his staff should be allowed to operate in a free and open manner and not be subjected to the whims and fancies of the Political Directorate in trying "to do a spin" on this sensitive issue.

In the most recent past, the Customs were instructed by those in the Ministry of Finance to publish the names of local businesses and businessmen who engaged in fraudulent activities in conducting business with this most important government department. Our own folks were placed in "the hall of shame" for issuing "bounce cheques" to Customs, as well as engaging in under-invoicing of imported goods.

At this early stage, we want to make it clear to all and sundry that the Chinese company at the centre of the investigation by the Comptroller of Customs has not been found guilty of any offence since the probe is still continuing. However, it should not be beyond anyone's imagination that the Political Directorate might be inclined to step in and try and sweep the issue under the carpet.

There are many important issues at stake in this investigation by Customs of the Chinese Construction Company. One is whether the firm is not guilty of ripping off the Government and People of Mainland China of equipment and material that were donated to the Government and People of Grenada as a gift for the national stadium.

What is known so far is that the company that rebuilt the stadium is not state-owned in China. It is a private company that was awarded the contract after a successful bidding process in Beijing among other Chinese construction firms.

The Grenada government would have granted duty-free concessions for items imported into the country for use at the national stadium and no other project on the island. And if a price is placed on the duty free entry of these goods, it must run into millions of dollars.

If the Chinese are guilty of violating the laws of Grenada by abusing the duty-free status of imported good then it would have placed them at a considerable advantage over similar projects on the island involving both local and foreign investors. The government has been complaining for years about leakages in the tax system and the need to stem the tide in order to bring in more revenue into the Treasury.

Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been making references to this very issue in regular bulletin put out on the performance of the Grenadian economy in recent years. GRENADA TODAY is awaiting the outcome of this particular investigation by the Comptroller of Customs.

Let's hope that the investigation does not turn out to be one similar to the China/Taiwan anthem debacle in which the government rejected one probe and ordered the conduct of another investigation.

As we understand it, nearly a year has passed and the members of that particular committee are still to meet much less compile a report on their findings.


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