By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Prime Minister and minister of state for finance have been urged to “immediately intervene” over what one leading attorney described as Customs’ attempt to “hold businesses hostage” in Freeport over demands for the submission of monthly bonded goods sales reports.
Fred Smith QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner who has won numerous Supreme Court verdicts against the Customs Department for violating the Hawksbill Creek Agreement’s provisions, confirmed that there were no provisions in that treaty or the Customs Management Act requiring the submission of such reports.
Racing to the defence of Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) licencees, who had seen their business operations and wider economy thrown into “confusion” by Customs’ latest demand, Mr Smith said: “I am shocked that Customs should be acting in such an arbitrary, heavy-handed manner towards licencees in Freeport.
“Customs does not have the right to hold businesses hostage by refusing to clear their trailers because the licencees may or may not be doing something else incorrect.
“The Hawksbill Creek Agreement and Customs Management Act provide for appropriate processes for the way something should be done, and the powers Customs has or does not have. Holding licencees to ransom by not clearing their trailers is a dictatorial abuse of their powers, and simply unacceptable.