Tuesday 23 July, 2019

Guns, ammunition and drugs arrests at Cayman Airport

During its first month as the country’s new intelligence-led, unified border service, the Customs and Border Control (CBC) arrested 11 persons for the possession and/or importation of contraband, issued 12 fines for declaration violations and refused entry to nine individuals for various immigration offences.

In 2018, Airport Border Control officers refused entry to Cayman to 126 persons, almost double the 68 persons who were refused entry in 2017, making it the largest amount since 2005.

On February 2, CBC officers were X-raying several pieces of lost baggage at the Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) when they recovered a loaded firearm. The baggage containing the firearm had arrived on a Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta, Georgia and was destined for a passenger that was on a cruise ship, which was en route to the George Town Harbour. 

The firearm was subsequently cleared and made safe by CBC officers. On February 3, the CBC Narcotics Enforcement Team and CBC K-9 officers attended the George Town Port where they arrested a 67-year-old American female who was a passenger onboard the cruise ship. The woman was arrested for possession of an unlicensed firearm and subsequently transported to the Prisoner Detention Centre.

On February 5, a male passenger was departing the Cayman Islands when he was stopped at the ORIA’s security checkpoint for a mandatory baggage inspection. CBC officers were summoned to the check point where they found ammunition and arrested the accused. Five days later on February 10, a male passenger was departing the Islands when he was stopped at the ORIA security checkpoint for a mandatory baggage inspection.

When CBC officers arrived at the check point, they recovered ammunition and apprehended the suspect. On the same day another male passenger arriving on a flight from Florida was referred to the X-ray for examination of his luggage. During the search, CBC Officers detected a rubber capsule containing a dark color oil like substance, which later tested positive for ganja/hash. The passenger was subsequently arrested for possession of ganja.

On February 17, a male passenger was leaving on an outbound flight when stopped at the ORIA security checkpoint for a mandatory baggage inspection. CBC officers were summoned to the check point where they recovered ammunition and arrested the accused. On February 18 and 20, CBC Officers also recovered ammunition from two different outbound male passengers after a mandatory baggage inspection was conducted at the ORIA security checkpoint.

Both suspects were apprehended by CBC Officers.

Throughout the month, CBC Officers also refused entry to nine individuals for the offences of: making a false statement upon arrival; failing to have proper travel documents (Passport or Entry Visa) and Prohibited Immigrant (sentenced for 12 months or more.) A total of 12 fines were issued to persons for the offence of: making a false declaration and for undeclared goods (plants, alcohol, personal effects.

Thanking his CBC officers for their diligence, the Director of CBC, Charles Clifford said: “The seizure of this type of contraband, detection of immigration offences and breaches of the law are excellent examples of outstanding work by our CBC officers. As we pursue those involved in border control crimes through targeted enforcement and investigative action, we will continue to increase our capabilities through enhanced training and appropriate equipment. "Our focus is on intercepting those passengers and importers with criminal intent, or who are in breach of our laws, and we are simultaneously facilitating legitimate passengers, baggage and cargo.”

Deputy Director of CBC, Jeff Jackson, who has responsibility for the Enforcement Portfolio, said: “CBC officers will continue to use a variety of techniques and strategies to intercept drugs, unreported currency, weapons, altered documents, illegal or prohibited immigrants, prohibited agriculture, and other illicit products. 

"The momentous duty of ensuring that we efficiently facilitate legitimate travel and trade without compromising security, rests upon the shoulders of our CBC officers, and now with our collective powers and skills, the CBC is stronger than ever before.”

These arrests come on the heels of the successful year of enforcement and border control in 2018. Preliminary results show that 2018 brought in the largest amount of Customs revenue ever collected at the ORIA.

In 2017, CI$2,888,666 was collected in revenue at the border, and CI$3,151,738 in 2018, an increase of almost CI$264,000.

In an effort to expedite the duty declaration system at ORIA and enable border control officers to focus more on security threats, the Customs Green Channel / Red Channel system was introduced in June 2018. In tandem with creating efficiencies for travelers arriving without goods to declare, officers also detected persons attempting to evade duty and imposed fines totally CI$58,161 during the last six months alone - an increase of CI$36,109 compared to the fines and penalties imposed for revenue offences in 2017, which totaled CI$22,051.

In 2018, Airport Border Control officers (formally with the Department of Immigration) refused entry to 126 persons, almost double the 68 persons who were refused entry in 2017, making it the largest amount since 2005.

“Due to greater reliance on intelligence-led approaches, such as trend analysis and information exchange with our security and law enforcement partners, officers on the frontline refused entry to the largest number of persons since 2005,” Director Clifford noted.

“We have to be ever vigilant, paying attention to more than just the obvious to ensure we tackle illegal immigration and activities, enforce trade compliance and enhance public safety and border security.” Throughout 2018, 63 persons were arrested by officers with the Border Control and Enforcement division (formerly with the Customs Department) for various drug and weapon offences, including importation, possession with intent to supply and conspiracy to import a controlled substance. 

The officers also conducted a total of 46 joint operations with the Department of Immigration and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. The proactive patrols and joint operations, which mostly targeted individuals involved with drugs and weapons activities, resulted in several hundred pounds of drugs and multiple firearms seized by officers. In addition, more than CI$250,000 in cash, suspected to be used in illegal activities, was confiscated with the aid of K-9 detector dogs at both the airport and private residences.

Other operations included the targeting of illegal immigrants and individuals in violation of the Immigration Law with the former DOI’s Enforcement Division. Throughout 2018, Enforcement Officers worked diligently to investigate, detect and prosecute Immigration offences and breaches of the law. 

Preliminary results show that the officers investigated 559 cases. Moreover, with assistance from other uniform agencies, the Enforcement Division also led 28 deportation/repatriation operations during 2018.

“The 2018 results reflect a great deal of significant progress, and I applaud the success of our border control officers and the integral role they continue to play as a leader in public safety,” the Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, said. “Their dedication and drive is exceptional, and I am confident the agency will continue to work hard to maintain this momentum and perform at even higher levels to keep our country safe.”

Councillor for the Ministry of Human Resources, Immigration and Community Affairs, Austin Harris, added: “The results of a year-long return to enforcing the law and upholding the integrity of our immigration system are proof as to what the men and women who protect the frontline can accomplish when delivering on its security mission. As we move forward, the CBC will deploy unprecedented levels of technology and resources that will further ensure critical security improvements to secure and manage our borders.”

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