General — 25 November 2017 — by Rowland A. Parks
Customs charges Minister of Labor Hugo Patt’s brother, Edgar Patt, for contraband beer

PATCHAKAN, Corozal District, Wed. Nov. 22, 2017–Villagers of Patchakan, in the Corozal District, became riled up over the long weekend after a vehicle which was being chased by customs officers overturned. Villagers made off with some of the load of contraband beer, which the vehicle was carrying.

The incident occurred on Monday, around 9:30 p.m., when customs officers chased down Edgar Patt, who, according to the Customs and Excise Department, was on its way back from making an illegal crossing at a place called “Estero.”

Patt, a brother of Minister of Labor Hugo Patt, reportedly lost control of his vehicle and ran off the road, slamming into a lamppost. Customs officers found Patt trying to hide his contraband beer in a cane field, and they took possession of them.

While they were doing this, a throng of villagers came by. Customs officers had to call for police backup after the villagers started stoning them, and began stealing the contraband beer.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Edward Broaster remarked to the media that, “Police officers intercepted a white vehicle with twenty-five cases of beer and turned them over to Customs. I don’t have the particulars of the driver.”

When Broaster was asked if police had to quell a crowd of villagers, he replied, “I, did not get any report of that nature.”

Normally, the Customs Department would opt for an out-of-court settlement, but that did not happen in Patt’s case. The department took him to court on a charge of carrying un-customed goods valued at $1,000. If the Customs Department had settled out of court, Patt would have had to pay three times the value of the contraband beer he was busted with.

Instead, the department is seeking to collect the maximum fine of $20,000. Patt pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on bail of $6,000.

The Customs Department also intends to charge some of the rock-throwing Patchakan villagers with obstruction.

Comptroller of Customs and Excise Department, Colin Griffith, told the media, “There was an incident yesterday, I believe, in the village of Patchakan, where my enforcement team informed me that they have one [Edwin] Patt detained…the intention was to charge him today, where he tried to evade Customs, and it so happened that the vehicle he was driving presumably crashed into a tree.

“Most of the goods have been recovered by Customs and there was some aggression by the villagers. It is not a situation that is new to us. Practically, on a daily basis we have situations where we have villagers or those that are involved in the movement of contraband… aggress Customs. That is why we work jointly with the other enforcement agencies.

“The Customs enforcement operation commenced on Friday and should go through until the 23rd of December, so we will be very, very, active on the road so as to ensure that goods are not contraband.”

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