Government Ministries confused over smuggled whisky

The Customs Department office in the main wharf

The Customs Department office in the main wharf

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA: MONDAY 15 APRIL 2013: Bottles from an illegal shipment of whisky ordered to be destroyed last November were later seized from shops.

In a confusing sequence of events, a container of VAT-99 whisky arrived in the country and was left unclaimed at the wharf.

Because no one claimed the container for a lengthy period Customs decided to auction its contents of whisky.

But while at a social gathering Chief Executive Officer of Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (MCIL), Auelua Samuelu Enari came across a bottle of VAT-99 whisky bottle.

Out of a suspicion that the whisky might be illegal, Auelua took it the trademark section of his ministry to investigate.

Irregularities were found in the labeling and the brand was declared illegal by MCIL.

At the same time Customs officials called MCIL with a suspicion that the whisky shipment was illegal because of labeling defects.

MCIL advised Customs to destroy the shipment and not auction it.

“We sent them (Customs) a letter in November after our investigation to destroy the consignment,” said MCIL Assistant Chief Executive Officer Margaret Fruean.

But MCIL was shocked to learn from media reports that the same container of VAT-99 whisky had vanished from the wharf.

MCIL was further shocked to learn that Customs and Police had seized VAT – 99 bottles from various shops.

Fruean said they have no interest to have the seized bottles handed over to MCIL by the Court as reported by media.

Following a Customs investigation, the matter has been handed over to Police.

A woman was charged last month over the illegal shipment and she has yet to appear in court and her identity still unknown.