The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) said on Tuesday that it was probing a multimillion-dollar corruption ring involving several of its customs officers based at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri, East Bank Demerara.
“The GRA has uncovered a revenue leakage racket at its branch at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri, involving several customs officers who are being investigated for their role in a scheme to defraud the authority of millions of State revenues,” the revenue body said in a statement.
It said the scheme, which dates back several years, is linked to a select group of importers who are allowed to clear goods without paying the correct or prescribed amount of duties.
“This discovery is part of management’s efforts to break the back of corruption that has plagued Guyana and to ensure that the prescribed Government revenues are collected,” the GRA stated.
The Authority said it intends to pursue serious disciplinary action against those involved in the racket. The officers fingered in the scheme are still on the job. Chairman of the GRA said the matter should be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.
Meanwhile, efforts to contact Commissioner General (ag) of the GRA Ingrid Griffith proved futile, as her mobile phone is said to be out of the service area.
This corruption ring follows on the heels of another corruption scandal which engulfed the revenue collection agency late last year, which led to the acting Law Enforcement Manager of GRA Troy Vannooten being suspended for alleged corruption.
Vannooten was suspended for two months without pay after he was accused of accepting bribes from persons who were involved in a scam dating back to September 2015.
Many believe corruption at the entity runs beyond the average employee.
The GRA has been in the spotlight for corruption in recent months after its former Commissioner, General Kurshid Sattaur, made some sweeping revelations about the entity, including unsavory practices by top officials in the entity.
Sattaur had said among other things that he was asked repeatedly to act in a manner that was not in the best interest of the GRA, including to settle for meagre sums in cases of defaulting taxpayers, which would have led to the loss of billions of dollars in revenue.
Additionally, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government upon assuming office in May 2015, promised to hire an international firm to conduct an audit of the revenue collection agency.
But, almost a year later, that audit is still to commence. The new Government also allegedly rehired several persons who were fired from the entity for corrupt practices.