More charges for duo accused of scamming Customs

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By Tahna Weston

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The two men charged in relation to alleged scams against the Customs Department have again been slapped with more charges arising from the incident dating back to 2017.

Rowan Matthew of Judges Hill Estate and Foston George of Pares Village both appeared in St John’s Magistrates’ Court to face eight additional charges.

These new charges are part of an ongoing investigation involving the Customs Department and include two counts of cheating public revenue, two for making false declarations, another two for electronic forgery, and two others for conspiracy to defraud, equating to almost $31,000.

Matthew and George, both Customs brokers, are charged jointly under the Electronic Crimes Act. They were granted bail similar to the last occasion in the sum of $30,000, with a cash deposit of $10,000.

The men have to provide two sureties and acting Chief Magistrate Dexter Wason ordered that their travel documents remain with the court.

Magistrate Wason also maintained the current reporting conditions one day per week — Fridays between 6am and 6pm. Matthew is reporting to the Coolidge Police Station while George reports to the Willikies Police Station.

They are expected to return to court on September 30 for committal proceedings.

Initially, acting Chief Magistrate Wason wanted to refuse the duo bail since they are already on High Court bail with respect to other charges.

The magistrate reminded their lawyer Andrew O’Kola this was their third appearance before him on similar charges, some of which have already been committed to the High Court. They also have charges before another magistrate.

Wason told the men’s lawyer that he was not minded to grant bail since he was not sure that he had jurisdiction to do so. He had, out of an abundance of caution, asked that a lawyer from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) come to the court to advise him as to this.

The magistrate also reminded their attorney, who was pushing for bail, that during their committal proceedings an attorney from the DPP office was present for that occasion.

However, the prosecutor told the court that after consultations it is his opinion that the magistrate does have jurisdiction to grant bail, since these charges mirror others for which they are already on bail.

As with the previous cases, Matthew and George are believed to have used duty-free concession codes from the government to avoid paying taxes, and pocketing money from their clients.

In February 2023, one of the cases for which they have been charged alongside Customs Officer Joesine Christian, was committed to the May criminal assizes for that year.

In that matter, the three defendants are jointly charged with conspiracy to defraud in relation to a 2017 incident at Deep Water Harbour, in which they reportedly gained a large sum of money from the Customs Department.

Christian also faces a charge of cheating the public revenue and corruption in public office.

The two brokers are facing additional charges of obtaining money by false pretence and making a false declaration.

In May 2023, Matthew and another Customs officer, Jeanette Browne, saw their case sent up to the High Court for similar offences.

However, a month later, two more matters involving George and Matthew were committed to the upper court.

Reportedly, in each case, the defendants are said to have defrauded different individuals.

Christian and Browne reportedly aided the duo in committing the alleged crimes.

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