Friday 23 October, 2020

Hilaire responds to Customs' demand that he return vehicle

Dr Ernest Hilaire

Dr Ernest Hilaire

Deputy Leader of the Opposition Saint Lucia Labor Party and Parliamentary Representative for Castries South, Dr Ernest Hilaire has reacted to an ultimatum given to him by the Customs and Excise Department in the latest in the Range Rover saga.

According to the said letter, the MP has seven days to return his Range Rover Sport to the Department as it was not properly cleared.

Hilaire said the Customs letter was issued to him on September 16 and he was told to bring in the vehicle the same day. He was asked to bring in the the supplier's invoice or he would be charged.

The Minister stated that he had no involvement in clearing the vehicle.

"I, as a foreign diplomat, all my personal effects were packed in the United Kingdom, packaged, shipped to Saint  Lucia, cleared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and shipped to my home. I had no interaction with customs. I was not present for any examination when the goods arrived. The broker that was used was a broker of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I had no say, no involvement in it."

He went on to say that speculations have been circulating about how he got the vehicle with him being accused of stealing it, receiving it from Walid Juffali and even money laundering.

Hilaire stated that when he was asked about the invoice in the interview, he told customs that it was in the bundle of documents that they had. He said afterwards they wrote him a letter asking for all the documents that they had already seen.

"We were told we could not leave with the documents. We actually took photos of the documents and we have photos of the supplier invoice."

Hilaire's lawyer wrote to customs telling them that they already had all the documents requested and asked that they make copies of the documents and they never got a response to which they assumed the matter was closed.

"What is the purpose of a supplier's invoice? Since when you need a supplier invoice for you to close an entry? We were told at the meeting with customs that the only outstanding issue with the vehicle was the VAT had not been paid by the Department of Foreign affairs and as long as the VAT is not paid, they cannot close the entry."

The minister says the supplier's invoice is needed for calculating customs duties which, as a returning foreign diplomat, does not a apply to him. According to him, the Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for covering that fee.

"This is becoming farcical, it's becoming comical and I await the next move from the Department of Customs. Whatever they want to do, let them proceed. They can come and take the vehicle. When they take it, they will feel the law and full political action."

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