Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2020. 6:50 pm CST.
By BBN Staff: Police have arrested and charged Customs Officer Dion Castillo for “Abetment to exit Belize illegally,” a charge that Customs Comptroller Colin Griffith says is outrageous and represents a ‘bad day for the public service.”
Griffith explained today that Castillo was charged for granting clearance for the tugboat “AJ Ellis” which is owned by Banana Enterprises, a member of the Big Creek Group of Companies, to leave Belize in late July. Griffith explained that, under the state of emergency regulations, vessels are still permitted to leave Belize for the purposes of transporting cargo and that the AJ Ellis had made 16 such trips between the months of March and July.
“So it was ascertained by this very junior customs officer that the intention of the AJ Ellis is for the same reason that it had the other 16 voyages, which would have been for commercial purposes,” Griffith said. “There is no way that officer Dion Castillo would have known that the clearance issued on the 25th of July was for AJ Ellis to perform a private enterprise…”
Griffith went on to say that Customs only learned of the purpose of the voyage this week after he spoke with the Principals of Banana Enterprises, who acknowledged that authorities should have been informed of the purpose of the voyage and issued an apology.
“The staff of the customs Department will stand fully behind Dion Castillo and will ensure that we raise the funds for his defense,” Griffith said.
He noted that the situation became even worse when he learned that the police had charged Castillo as a border jumper and objected to him receiving bail. He notes that the incident will not hinder the good working relationship that the Customs Department has with the Police, but stresses that he strongly disagrees with the way things have played out.
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