Customs burns drugs, gun haul

Around $1.5 million worth of drugs and guns went up in smoke Friday in a controlled disposal of contraband confiscated by customs officers. 

Alongside the two truckloads of ganja, cocaine, shotguns and pornographic videotapes were some more innocuous items – water pistols, sex toys and T-shirts emblazoned with images of marijuana leaves, also confiscated at the ports. 

The vast majority of the drugs came from a single haul of 2,500 pounds of ganja, with a street value of $1.2 million, found concealed in a shipping container with a false back, heading out of the country in 2009. The dealers behind the failed export attempt were never traced and the investigation is now closed. 

A total of 53 guns, the majority old-fashioned rifles, were broken in pieces and melted down. 

Illegal or unlicensed items intercepted at the dock and the airport are incinerated once they are no longer required for evidence.  

The guns and drugs were brought by police escort to the landfill site where they were loaded onto a conveyor belt, fed into an incinerator, which burns at a temperature of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and reduced to ash.  

Samantha Bennett, Collector of Customs, said, “We have gathered together all of the items that we have either detected or were seized over the last couple of years. Some have been handed in, some come from efforts of smuggling by criminals.” 

She said many of the smaller items had been confiscated at the airport or cruise dock. But the larger hauls tended to come on container ships. New X-ray machines are having an impact in deterring criminals from using that route, she added. 

Adding fuel to the fire were pharmaceutical drugs, such as Viagra, confiscated from importers who didn’t have prescriptions. Some of the haul came from drugs turned in by cruise ships, confiscated from passengers. 

Some of the stranger items on the pile included a child’s “splash-attack” water pistol and novelty shot glasses. Anything that depicts the marijuana leaf is also on the banned list, and several boxes of T-shirts also found their way onto the fire. 

It is not clear exactly what time period the total contraband haul represents. The last controlled destruction was in 2008, though many of the items burned on Friday were confiscated before that date and were needed for evidential purposes. 

Ms. Bennett said it is important to destroy the items reasonably quickly. 

“There is a risk factor of us keeping it in storage. They are illegal items and we want to get them off our premises and out the island as quickly as possible,” she said. 

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More than 50 guns were fed into the incinerator. PHOTO: JAMES WHITTAKER

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