JAMAICA'S Customs Department is reporting a spike in the number of persons attempting to smuggle cocaine in the island.
The disclosure was made yesterday by Commissioner of Customs Major Richard Reese, who said the smugglers are mainly from Suriname, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
"We are seeing an increase in the number of persons (inbound passengers) who ingest drugs, or have drugs in their luggage from these areas," Major Reese said while addressing a luncheon of the Kiwanis Club of Kingston at the Wyndham Kingston hotel.
He said, since January, the Customs Department has seized just over 159 kilogrammes (kgs) of cocaine, worth an estimated $360 million, and more than one million kgs of marijuana, valued at nearly $482 million.
In the meantime, Major Reese said under-invocing and false declaration continue to be major challenges for the department.
He said the practice of under-invoicing was particularly prevalent among importers of motor vehicles. He said the department, during re-evaluations between April and August of this year, collected over $172 million that was lost to under-invoicing — $104 million of which was from vehicle importers.
"The problem of under-invoicing and false declaration threatens legitimate trade. Therefore, the Department must monitor and protect industrial and commercial activities," Commissioner Reese declared.
He also said persons were still trying to smuggle guns and ammunition through the ports. He said the department has seized 10 firearms and 6,577 rounds of ammunition this year.
Additionally, the department seized 260 debit/credit cards used by criminals in the lottery scam, 64 checques and money orders believed to be for use in the illegal scheme, as well as US$392,390 that was being smuggled into the island.