Two fined for cigarette duty evasion

Two people who tried to evade paying $294 in duty on seven cartons of cigarettes have been fined $1,176.

Magistrate Grace Donalds imposed the fine after Ryan Chester Whittaker and Samantha Yolanda Thompson pleaded guilty last week to evading customs duty on May 6, 2014.

The magistrate explained that the penalty is the duty owed plus triple that amount. In this case, she apportioned the total between the two defendants so that each must pay $588. She also noted that the law permits the court to impose, in addition, a fine up to $6,000 or imprisonment up to five years. However, she did not impose any further fine.

Both defendants asked for and received three months in which to pay the penalty.

At the time, Whittaker, 27, was a ramp coordinator for Cayman Airways at Owen Roberts International Airport. Thompson, 36, was a passenger traveling to Miami.

A third defendant, 22, was a customer service agent for Cayman Airways. She maintained her not guilty plea, so trial was to go ahead for her that afternoon. However, after hearing submissions from defense attorney Sheridan Brooks, Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson offered no evidence. The magistrate therefore discharged the younger woman.

Mr. Ferguson told the court that Thompson bought the cigarettes from a duty-free shop in the passenger lounge of the airport. She was subsequently paged and she approached the customer service agent, asking her to hold the bag with the cigarettes in it. Later, she asked the agent to give the bag to Whittaker when he started his shift that afternoon.

The agent, who knew both Thompson and Whittaker, agreed. She took the bag and put it in a locker.

When questioned by a customs officer, the agent explained what had happened. The officer then questioned Whittaker, who admitted instructing someone to buy the cigarettes and give them to the agent to hold for him. He said he did not inform the agent in advance that Thompson would be taking the cigarettes to her. He said he tried to call her later but she was busy working and unable to answer.

Whittaker confirmed that the agent had no knowledge that Thompson was going to give her the cigarettes.

Thompson agreed that Whittaker had asked her to buy the cigarettes and give them to the agent. She did not know if the agent knew what was intended and she did not know if they had spoken.

The magistrate asked both defendants, who were not represented, whether they wished to address the court before sentencing. Thompson indicated she did not wish to say anything. Whittaker said he didn’t know about the law.


  1. "Didn”t know about the law.", what a great way to defend yourself.

    I’d like to think he was lying, as I am fairly sure any personnel at an airport should have a pretty good idea about what they should and shouldn’t be doing.