Some Customs Officers attached to the Guyana Revenue Authority have indicated that for too long the Customs Enforcement Division of the GRA has had its concerns about safety and equipment ignored, and there needs to be a change in that.
One senior GRA official pointed to Wednesday’s incident when a GRA Enforcement patrol came under heavy gunfire that they could not match, from a known Mahaica smuggler just as they were about to carry out an operation at one of his locations.
The Officer explained that this was not the first time that Enforcement Officers were forced to retreat from an operation after coming under gunfire attack.
According to the official, the Enforcement Division has been pressing management at the GRA for better equipment for years but would usually be met with “we will look into it”, although many of the officers would put their lives on the line when they head out to track down smugglers.
News Source understands that various Heads of the Enforcement Division have been pressing the GRA’s top brass over the past decade to improve the quality of weapons and equipment that the officers would have to use when conducting their duties. “While they are sending these officers out there to take on smugglers with 9mm and .32 pistols, the smugglers have AK-47 rifles and sub machine guns. The officers also have to go out there in vehicles that are not armoured and even their bulletproof vests are old and of bad quality. This is not good enough”, the Senior GRA Official told News Source.
There are also reports that the Customs Enforcement Officers no longer benefit from a risk allowance and their complaints about being threatened by suspects would most times “never be investigated by GRA”.
The Senior Official told News Source that while the Enforcement Division leads the way in tackling the smuggling of food, fuel, liquor and other items by various individuals, enough is not being done to address their concerns. According to reports, the same Mahaica Smuggler who opened fire on the Enforcement Officers on Wednesday night has threatened Customs Officers in the past and “nothing was done about it”.
On Thursday, the Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority Khurshid Sattaur told the media that he commends the officers for so “ably carrying out their duty in spite of the many challenges”.