Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has responded after Tuesday’s announcement by Dr. Ernest Hilaire that he is proceeding with legal action against Customs Comptroller, Peter Chiquot and the Customs and Excise Department in the ongoing saga over alleged irregularities in the importation of Hilaire’s Range Rover Sport.
Chastanet has described Hilaire’s legal action as distasteful.
“I find it very distasteful and very disturbing that Ernest and his layers would have taken this approach when simply, all Customs has been asking him to do is to provide the evidence to show that he owns the car,” the PM stated.
He made the comments Wednesday morning while a guest on Andre Paul’s programme ‘That Makes Me Mad’.
“It is very sad, I have to say to you Andre, that both Ernest and his lawyers would publicly threaten a public officer of the state. If in fact he has done nothing wrong, then he has nothing to worry about. Why go after the Comptroller of Customs – a gentleman who has been in Customs over 20 years?”
On November 12 this year Customs officials seized the Range Rover Sport vehicle from Dr. Ernest Hilaire’s Rodney Bay home.
On Tuesday the Castries South MP and former Saint Lucia High Commissioner to the UK told reporters that his Attorneys had served the first set of ‘pre-action’ papers informing the Comptroller of Customs of legal action against him.
“We are also taking legal action against him in his personal capacity and we are suing for damages, for damage to my reputation, for illegally seizing the vehicle and for malfeasance in public office, abuse of public office,” Hilaire disclosed.
He also warned that his legal action would go to the highest level, asserting that Prime Minister Allen Chastanet will also be served with letters informing him of legal action for abuse of public office and malfeasance in public office.
“They can shout, they can sing, they can dance – but you cannot victimize and abuse the people of the country in such a manner,” Hilaire told reporters.
He observed that many people who suffer do not have the capacity to stand up.
“In my case, it is being done for political reasons and I will stand up,” Hilaire declared.
He said public officers should not allow themselves to be used to pursue political objectives.
“Remember that two Comptrollers of Customs have been changed because they did not agree to go and take that vehicle – two. An Acting PS in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was removed because she wanted to pay the outstanding VAT on that vehicle. The Acting Chief Transport Officer was removed because she was asked to deregister my vehicle,” Hilaire stated.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said in regard to the Customs Comptroller issue that the process of making the appointment is not up to him alone.
“There’s a Public Service Commission that we have to go through and when one wants to come and discover the facts as to how Chiquot came to be Acting Comptroller, that can stand the light of scrutiny,” he told programme host, Andre Paul.
Headline photo caption (L to R) Allen Chastanet & Dr. Ernest Hilaire