Voodoo on de Port: Jewellry Disappears
In his 2014 calypso, Customs Officer Peter Letang sang "Voodoo on the Dominican Port, call a pastor call on priest to get the devil out."
In that song Letang referred to the mysterious disappearance of items from the Port. He stated in his lyrics that whiskey, chicken wings and other items just seem to be walking out and no one was able to give an account or explanation.
And it seems that he had it right because proprietors of Quins Jewellery Mr. & Mrs. Shean St. Hilaire are seeking redress for the mysterious disappearance of their goods.
In a letter from the law chambers of Heather F. Felix- Evans dated June 13th, 2014 addressed to the Comptroller of Customs and copied to the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the financial secretary and the Chief of Police, the store owners are expressing shock and disappointment at the disappearance of their goods from the Customs.
"Our instructions are that in February 2014 our client, Mrs Vernesa St. Hilaire, travelled to the United States of America to purchase jewelry on behalf of Quins Jewellery for the purpose of resale at its store at 25 Great Marlborough Street, Roseau. On the 6th day of February 2014, we are told, our client Vernesa St. Hilaire, returned to Dominica with the jewelry via Seaborne at Melville Hall Airport. Mrs. St. Hilaire was dealt with by Customs Officer ( name withheld) whom she says, matched every piece of jewelry against the invoices she produced and her customs duties amounting to a total of EC$7,059.42 (assessed custom charges.)," the letter states.
It continues: "Instructions continue that since our client Mrs. St. Hilaire did not have the funds or a cheque book at hand to pay the Custom duties, she left all the jewelry in the custody and care of Customs Officer (name withheld) with the intention of paying the customs duties at a later date at which time she would regain possession of the said jewelry. Our client, Mrs. St. Hilaire, instructs that the supervisor on the shift at the time she presented at and departed customs was Customs Officer (name withheld)."
The letter continues : "According to our further instructions, on or about the 28th day of April 2014, our client Mrs. St. Hilaire paid the assessed custom charges in full at the Customs office at the Woodbridge Bay, Fond Cole and on 30th day of April 2014 sought to clear the jewelry. She was advised that the jewelry could not be located. To date, despite our clients' inquiries and follow ups no explanation has been given to them for the disappearance of the jewelry that was left in the Custom's possession on 6th February 2014. No account has been given to them as to what happened to the jewelry or where it went or through whose hand (s) it passed after Officer (name withheld) took possession of it from her on 6th February 2014.
"Needless to say, our clients are shocked and disappointed by the disappearance of the jewelry from the Customs' possession. These feelings, our clients say are compounded by the fact that to date no explanation or account has been provided to them.
"We are told that the proper procedure in handling the jewelry that was left in its possession on February 6th 2014 was for Customs Melville Hall to transfer the said jewelry to Customs Woodbridge Bay on that same day. Upon arrival at Customs Woodbridge Bay the jewelry ought to have been placed in the vault for safekeeping. A written account ought to have been made of the movement of that jewelry from the moment it was declared to Customs to the time it was released to our clients. The disappearance of our clients' jewelry, therefore, without explanation is unacceptable and curious and is likely to be criminal in nature.
"The Customs Officers in the execution of their public duties cannot be trusted to act with honesty and integrity bodes terribly for the future of the Public Service. Our clients hope that you or another officer with the requisite authority will cause a proper and thorough investigation to be conducted so that the officer (s) responsible for the disappearance of their goods are identifies and dealt with appropriately.
"In the meantime, our clients instruct, they have suffered serious loss and damage. Had these pieces of jewelry been available to them and sold our clients would have made a profit of at least $48,710.04. The disappearance of the jewelry has deprived our clients of the opportunity to make said minimum profit.
"We have instructions, and by this letter we so do, to demand from the Government of Dominica, the sum of EC$48,710.04 which represents the minimum profit that our client (s) have lost due to the actions and or omission of personnel of the Customs Department, plus legal cost to date of $345. "Our clients look forward to an early response from you and to have this matter settled fairly and expeditiously and without further loss and damage."
When contacted, Comptroller of Customs Roderick Deschamps had this to say: "We can't divulge any information as it relates to Customs or related matters. I am so sorry that I cannot assist you…that is a Customs policy."