Police say Customs officer’s shooting not linked to multi-million-dollar fraud

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By Orville Williams

The Acting Commissioner of Police, Atlee Rodney, has sought to dispel the suggestion that there’s a correlation between the shooting of a Customs officer and the discovery of a $3 million fraud at the Customs & Excise Division late last year.

The Commissioner, who was speaking to the media at the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda’s end-of-year press conference on Wednesday, insisted that though the timing of both incidents was coincidental, the police have yet to find evidence to connect them.

 “From all our investigations, we have no relationship between the two incidents. Yes, Customs might have their internal matter that they are dealing with — the finance that is missing [but] our focus has always been who shot the officer. That has been our main investigation.

 “I am mindful as to what it is in the media, that there is [suggestion of] a correlation, but we have no evidence to suggest that. Yes, it’s topical and people are making that correlation, but in terms of our investigation, none of the information that we have gathered thus far has indicated that it had to do with some internal matter that was happening at the Customs department,” Rodney explained.

The officer, Cornell Benjamin, was injured during a shooting incident in October last year, mere days after Cabinet announced the multi-million-dollar fraud at the Customs Division. However, the Acting Commissioner of Police said that the public may be overzealous in assuming the correlation between the incidents, as there are several probabilities regarding the origin of the attack.

 “A lot of persons are only thinking that was the only case that the officer would be investigating. They are saying that he was part of that investigation, but he has been working in [the Customs Enforcement Unit] for a number of years, so obviously he has been investigating a number of Customs matters.

 “So, it might not be fair to say because he was on that case…what about all the other cases? He could have enemies from other cases. So, we have no evidence to suggest that there is a relationship between that particular case he was investigating, or any other case that he might investigating, with his unfortunate situation,” Rodney stated.

According to the Acting Commissioner, the investigation is still ongoing, with collaborative effort from multiple local law enforcement agencies.

 “This is still an active investigation. The police have been interviewing persons. There are persons that we’ve questioned and we have been reviewing [the] evidence that we have, just to see where we are, what we have and what else we might have to be pursuing,” he said.

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