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Custom Officers Bust Tankers Filled with Illegal Fuel

A Belizean and a Guatemalan have been detained following the interception of contraband fuel this morning at around six o’clock. The men’s detention came after the interception of contraband fuel this morning by Customs officials in the Cayo District. The tankers reportedly made their way into Belize, across the border with Guatemala. The contraband fuel, estimated to be six thousand gallons of fuel, was confiscated some six hundred yards away from the Guatemalan border, in the Calla Creek area. Deputy Customs Comptroller Doctor Gilbert Gordon told Love News that the operation was a result of information received a month ago.

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “We had received information a month or so ago in regards to fuel being contraband in the Cayo district area and we turned that information into intelligence. Our investigative team was then deployed into the Cayo area sometime I would say about two days ago and based on the intelligence that we have received and the operations that was set up by our enforcement team what happened was that it yielded the interception of two bowsers coming into the country with an estimated six thousand gallons of fuel which it is only estimated and the type we cannot really state the type until we have a scientific testing on what exactly is inside these bowsers. But these bowsers were intercepted about six hundred yards from the Guatemalan border.”

Reporter: How many people are detained ?

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “We have two people detained. One Belizean and one a Guatemalan.”

Reporter: You mention that you’ve been following this information for about a month ago do you believe that there have been other instances where fuel has been illegally imported in Belize ? 

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “Yes and this is an ongoing process and therefore the customs department based on these information and intelligence given to us the customs department is strongly of the opinion that fuel because of the the situation in our country because of the COVID pandemic has created an avenue for people to try to the payment of income taxes and so they would want to utilize this avenue and so based on that we believe that this is an ongoing process that has been occurring for a period of time.”

Reporter: Since last year or since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Belize ?

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “Contraband is an ongoing thing and I cannot give you a time frame in regards to when certain things occur but the customs department once we receive information and it’s reliable information and we can turn those information into intelligence the the Customs Department will act on it to try to create some form of interception or to create a level of prevention of contraband coming into the country.”

An investigation has been launched and customs officials are in the process of testing the fuel to determine the type. The two men would likely be fined three times the market value of the fuel. Investigators will also work on determining how large the fuel contraband ring is.

Reporter: These two men who are detained are they believed to be just pawns in a larger contraband system ?

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “Well the investigation is still ongoing as we speak. We are in the process of getting the fuel tested scientifically, based on that scientific overall result and our continued investigation in regards to what this can lead to the investigation will reveal all that at the end.”

Reporter: Is it that fuel, this contraband fuel will end up at regular gas stations around the country ? Or smaller gas stations ? 

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “I would not want to speculate where the fuel will end up but I can say it ends up on the Belize market and then competes against those that are being imported through the tankers.”

Reporter: So what is wrong with the fuel is that it is illegally imported in Belize, what about the quality ? Is it the same up to par with the quality ?

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “Like what I said earlier it’s going to be tested scientifically and based on those testing it will give us a clear idea of what type of fuel that was being imported from Guatemala illegally.”

Reporter: Okay so if after your investigation is completed and these two persons are found guilty what happens to them ? Fine ? Jail time ?

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “Well the customs law is specific if people are caught with contraband goods those goods are going to be confiscated and based on the value of the goods the person would be paying three times the market value.”

Reporter: But that’s about it.

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “Yeah.”

Reporter: And what happens to the fuel ? 

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “This will be determined by the Ministry of Finance. If the fuel is something that can be utilized, if it is up to par then the Ministry of Finance will make that decision in regards to how to dispose of the fuel.”

Reporter: Okay so these two men who are detained they’re clearly not working alone.

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “Based on investigation and what we’re seeing right now like what I said earlier is it’s something that we need to investigate even further to see how far.”

Reporter: But it’s part of a larger ring of people.

Dr.Gerald Gordon, Deputy Comptroller of Customs: “I would not want to speculate or prejudice what we’re doing in our investigation or to ascertain or speculate in any which way shape or form about this situation but I would like to allow for the investigation to reveal what you are asking.”