Container of contraband seized at harbour

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A container containing pharmaceuticals, rodenticides, pesticides and herbicides hidden among food items was recently seized at the port.
Public Relations Officer of the Customs and Excise Department Randy Baltimore made the disclosure on OBSERVER Radio yesterday.
 “The container arrived on July 31 and upon examining the container the officers realised that there were some queries with the documentation. They said that the document was in Spanish so they informed the consignee that the document needed to be translated to English and once that was done, there were certain infractions and irregularities that the officer picked up upon,” Baltimore said.
He added that the irregularities prompted the officer to do a total check of the container at the port. Upon checking the container, the officer found illegal items among the food items.
According to Baltimore, the Chief Pharmaceutical
Officer, along with the Veterinary Officer, as well as the plant and quarantine officers were subsequently notified.
He revealed that none of the items in the container had the required import licenses. Baltimore further stated that because there was no import license for the meat products in particular, they were seized and destroyed while the other items were taken by the plant protection unit, the veterinary and livestock division, the quarantine division as well as other relevant agencies, including the Central Board of Health.
The PRO said that the inspection of the 20-foot refrigerated container was done in the presence of the consignee according to protocol. He admitted that he was unable to give specific details concerning the amount of meat and contraband found in the container since the investigation is still ongoing.
He said that everything found in the container must  be itemised and the relevant authorities will provide the itemised lists of the contraband and other products.
He admitted that the quantification of the items found in the container has been a tedious task that has
spanned several days. Some of the pharmaceuticals found in the container were identified as injections, antibiotics and other medication that require prescription under the pharmaceutical laws of Antigua and Barbuda.
Baltimore stated that the investigation has been ongoing for about a week now but he expects it to be concluded by the end of this week.
Another source said that authorities have had their eyes on the woman, who was the consignee, for some time now. The source said that the woman would usually bring in her wholesale items via air freight and this is believed to have been her first time importing through the sea port.
OBSERVER media contacted Chief Medical Officer, Dr. James Knight, who said that this situation could have created a public health hazard because of the possible exposure of the imported food to any number of hazardous materials found in the container. He highlighted that the entire situation produced three risks factors, including unsupervised and unauthorised pharmaceuticals, the presence of pe­­­­sticides and rodenticides and food.
He asked that members of the public refrain from obtaining any kind of pharmaceutical items from anyone who is not a certified medical practitioner.
It was just over a month ago that the Director of Pharmaceutical Services in the Ministry of Health, Alfred Athill warned the general public against the sale and purchase of illegal pharmaceuticals. He said that individuals found engaging in this practice without the proper legal authority to do so will be dealt with severely.

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