Police, Customs investigate shooting of Customs Officer

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By Elesha George

The police, along with officers attached to the Customs and Excise Division are investigating a shooting, which has left 46-year-old Cornell Benjamin nursing gunshot wounds at the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC).

According to sources close to the investigation, Benjamin arrived home at about 9:45 pm on Sunday 13th October 2019 and some time after he heard his dogs barking. When he went outside to check on the animals, he reportedly saw two men running towards him from the nearby bushes.

The men then opened fire on Benjamin, causing gunshot injuries to both of his legs. 

According to a source, the victim reported hearing seven shots being fired, but he sustained four wounds to the right leg and one in the left leg.

Reports reaching OBSERVER media confirmed that spent shells were visible on the street in front of the gate to Benjamin’s home. 

The shooting victim was issued a medical form and was transported to MSJMC via ambulance that night. Additional reports are that Benjamin is in stable condition, and was expected to have undergone surgery. 

Meantime, in a press statement, the police said that Benjamin’s injuries are not life-threatening, and that “there is no known motive behind this incident”, but that they will continue their investigations along with Customs authorities.

However, speculation is rife as many people believe that the incident is somehow connected to an investigation into a $3 million Customs fraud, which was made public during last week’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

Benjamin, who is a Customs Officer attached to the Enforcement Unit of the Customs and Excise Division, is said to be a member of the investigative team which is conducting a probe into the missing money.

The Customs Enforcement Unit is responsible for investigations of under-evaluation, false invoicing, and smuggling (cargo for trade/contrabands).

The fraud, alleged to have been committed by brokers, came to light after the department, checked goods coming into the port against the revenues collected.

During last Thursday’s post-Cabinet briefing, Information Minister,Melford Nicholas said $3 million was unaccounted for in the first quarter of this year. The allegation is that the brokers would have forged signatures and presented fraudulent documents to the Customs department for the waiver of taxes due on imports.

While the government is demanding that the broker(s) responsible repay the state, in the interim it will implement an electronic waiver warrant with the expectation that it will reduce the chances of forgery and instances of fraud.

Meanwhile, the police have asked anyone with information that can further assist both law enforcement bodies to contact the Criminal Investigations Department at 462-3913 or 462-3914.

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