General — 16 January 2016 — by Albert J. Ciego
Busted contrabandistas pay a heavy price

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 14, 2016–Two contrabandistas, Franciso Lopez and Eddy Meza, are in police custody for the possession of uncustomed goods, after they were allegedly busted with 7 sacks of carrots and other produce, including celery, onions, red bell peppers and avocados, which authorities said were imported illegally from Mexico.

The men, who were detained at about 9:00 yesterday morning at the Michael Finnegan Market in Belize City, will be charged 3 times the value of the goods, based on the selling price in the market.

Amandala has been informed that Customs officials have seized 700 pounds of carrots, which are sold at $1.50 per pound at the market. So, the men, Lopez and Meza, will be charged $4.50 per pound for the carrots, which in total will amount to $3,150.

The seizure of the illegal carrots is good news for San Carlos farmers, who, as a result of being boxed out of the market by the contrabandistas, are suffering major losses because they are unable to sell about 10 acres of carrots.

Customs officials told Amandala today that they had been tipped off that a well-known contrabandista was selling uncustomed goods at the market. So they immediately went to the market to see what was happening.

As soon as the contrabandista saw the Customs officers approaching him, he quickly got into his van and sped away. Customs officials were aided by a police mobile, and they were able to chase down and apprehend the two contrabandistas.

The men, authorities said, did not have documents or receipts to prove that the produce had been legally imported, and there was nothing to verify that duties had been paid.

The authorities confiscated the produce and the vehicle in which they were being transported.

Collin Griffith, Director of the Enforcement Unit, Customs Department, told Amandala that they are conducting operations to interdict and seize illegally imported vegetables. However, there are many drawbacks.

Customs officers must catch the contrabandistas with the produce before they are sold at the market, since they cannot distinguish between contraband vegetables and those that are being sold legally.

Griffith urges farmers to be proactive and report any contraband activities.

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