Posted: Wednesday, January 6, 2016. 4:24 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Customs and Excise Department wants to destroy the 75 tonnes of Guyanese rice currently stored at the Big Creek Port but they must await another court decision.
Following Supreme Court Justice Sonia Young’s denying importer Jack Charles application for leave to file for judicial review against the Belize Agricultural Health Authority’s decision not to allow import of the rice, attorney for Circle R Products, the mill which accepts rice for production from the major Mennonite agricultural communities of the North and Spanish Lookout, he warned that the Department was moving to confiscate and possibly destroy the rice if Charles did not re-export it.
On Tuesday, the Department appeared ex parte – that is, by itself – before Senior Magistrate Sharon Frazer, and convinced her to give them an order of forfeiture to take possession of the rice and destroy it. Having received that order, members of the Department visited the port to haul the rice away.
But according to Jack Charles, whom we spoke with via telephone this afternoon, he got wind of the decision between 11:30and midday Tuesday and immediately sent his attorneys, Leeroy Banner and Senior Counsel Michel Chebat, into action.
A hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday, January 12, where the lawfulness of the forfeiture will be determined and Customs will be told whether they can go ahead and destroy Charles’ investment.
Charles limited his comments otherwise to saying, quote, It is a sad day for the country when the private sector is being interfered with…but we are still hopeful, we still have our hopes. End quote.
He added tongue-in-cheek that he was not aware that rice was such an urgent matter, that the Government needed to have the rice destroyed on such an urgent basis. He also pointed out that even after the case concluded on Monday morning, he was not told by any authority in Belize that he would have to hand over his rice.
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