Attorneys For Dr. Ernest Hilaire Issue Warning To Customs Comptroller

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Attorneys for Castries South MP, Dr. Ernest Hilaire have warned the Comptroller of Customs, Peter Chiquot, that they will not hesitate to take action against him personally for malfeasance in public office in the long running saga involving the MP’s Land Rover vehicle.

The letter from the law firm Fosters,  a copy of which was obtained by St Lucia Times, is reproduced below.

The Comptroller of Customs

Mr. Peter D. Chiquot Department of Customs and Excise

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Jeremie Street

Castries

Saint Lucia

Dear Sir,

22 September 2020

Via Email and Hand

Reference       Dr. Ernest Hilaire

We continue to act herein on behalf of Dr. Ernest Hilaire.

In your letter to our client dated 16 September 2020, you made the following statements, among others:

” You would appreciate that the vehicle was released to you on pre-delivery in good faith and on the condition that you would submit all invoices issued to you for the vehicle and your personal effects for the processing of the appropriate Customs entry”.

“Consequent upon your failure and refusal, the Department is left with no option but to withdraw the pre-delivery and request that the vehicle be returned to Port Castries into the care and custody of the Customs Department by September 16th 2020 pending your submission of the Supplier’s invoice issued to you for the purchase of the vehicle within seven (7) days of this letter”.

“This measure is to satisfy the Perfect Entry Requirement to account for the vehicle pursuant to the provisions of sections 26 and 65 of the Customs Act”.

Our client has recently received copies of a Memo dated 24 February 2020 from the Comptroller of Customs to the Ministry of External Affairs and Memos dated 21 May 2020 and 29 May 2020 from the Ministry of External Affairs to the Comptroller of Customs all of which would have been within your knowledge. Copies of the Memos are attached for your ease of reference.

These Memos demonstrate and confirm that the statements made in your letter of 16 September 2020 were absolutely false and made with the intention to cause harm to our client by depriving him of his vehicle and to cause him embarrassment and reputational damage. In fact, these Memos, when read together with your Report of 12 June 2020 and your letter of 16 September 2020 show that these false statements were made for the sole purpose of detaining our client’s vehicle.

The conclusive facts arising from the Memos and your Report are:

 

  1. In 2015, the Government of Saint Lucia acknowledged and accepted that it was responsible for all costs associated with shipping and clearing of goods on behalf of our client. This is confirmed by a Memo to the Comptroller of Customs from the Ministry of External Affairs dated 21 December 2015.
  2. Pre-delivery of the vehicle was granted to the Ministry of External affairs pending the payment of duties on the vehicle or a concession in relation to the duties. The Cabinet Conclusion No. 815 of 2003 did not include a VAT concession as it pre-dated VAT and your Department had requested payment of the VAT. The only outstanding issue to satisfy the Perfect Entry Requirement was the payment of the VAT. This account is confirmed and acknowledged by a Memo in writing from the Comptroller of Customs to the Ministry of External Affairs dated 24 February 2020.
  3. The Ministry of External Affairs at all times accepted responsibility for the packing, shipping and clearance of our client’s personal effects. In fact, the vehicle was cleared by a broker engaged by the Ministry and delivered to our client.
  4. On 23 March 2020, you met with the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and he expressed his “concern over the refusal of the Customs Department to act on the matter relating to the importation of the vehicle by Dr. Ernest Hilaire”.
  5. You held meetings with Officers of the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Customs Department to determine how action could be taken against our client given that there was a“Request for Investigation and follow up action on the Report of a missing Government Property/Asset”.
  1. You knew at all times that you had no authority or basis to undertake the investigation, given that there was no authority under the Customs Act to investigate the alleged theft of a vehicle; advice which was given to you by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Office of the Attorney General. Further, you are fully aware that the Comptroller of Customs is only concerned with collecting and accounting for the revenue of customs.
  2. You therefore fabricated an alleged breach of the Customs Act, conjured up a story of failure to comply with a request for information, a supplier’s invoice pursuant to section 130 of the Customs Act to clothe yourself with authority to detain our client’s vehicle with the full knowledge that the only outstanding issue on the vehicle was the payment of VAT.
  3. The Ministry of External Affairs acknowledged and accepted that it was responsible for the payment of the VAT and in fulfilling its obligation and duty “finalized” the necessary journal entry to facilitate clearance of the VAT on our client’s vehicle. By Memo dated 21 May 2020, the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that the SAD and journal had been hand delivered to the Customs and Excise Department on 20 May 2020.
  4. Without any explanation at all, on 29 May 2020, the processing of the journal entry was stopped until further advice from the Director of Finance.

Our client is not concerned of the failure of the Ministry of External Affairs to settle the VAT to the Customs and Excise Department at this time. It is clear from the Memos, that the only action required to satisfy the perfect entry on the vehicle is the payment of the VAT and the Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed to you in writing that it is responsible for the payment of the VAT. This is an acknowledgment and admission of the Government of Saint Lucia by which it is bound and as such this matter of a perfect entry requirement has absolutely nothing to do with our client.

We would suggest that you pursue the Ministry of External Affairs or the Director of Finance for the payment of the VAT. Further, we demand that you withdraw your letter of 16 September 2020.

Our client remains concerned with your actions and the lengths to which you have abused your office to seek to detain his vehicle and to cause him reputationai damage and, in this regard, our client reserves his rights. Should you take any step to detain our client or his vehicle or harass him further in relation to this vehicle, we will not hesitate to commence proceedings against you personally for misfeasance in public office and the damages arising therefrom.

Yours faithfully,

Renee St. Rose

Partner

FOSTERS

Enc.

  1. The Attorney General, Mr. Stephen Julien

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Daarsrean Greene

The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Severin Moncherry

 

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