Customs Agents allege one of their own may be picking up contraband packages
A customs agent, who walked outside the post office with a package to which K9 dogs had alerted refused to allow on-duty customs officers to inspect, as per usual procedures, and this agent is now on the Treasurer’s radar.
Treasurer Dr. Falema’o Phil M Pili, yesterday confirmed to Samoa News that they are conducting an investigation into this matter. “This is a serious issue, however I am very cautious about these things because we have to protect the integrity of what we are trying to do, within the organization," he told Samoa News.
“This is very serious given the magnitude behind this. It could have a ripple effect within the organization. When there’s contraband involved, if there was, it’s a matter that is very serious,” said Falema'o.
He also noted the Customs Agent in question is currently still working. The Director declined to further comment on the issue given the investigation has been underway since last week. Reliable sources within Customs told Samoa News the incident occurred last month.
“We were informed by the K9 Supervisor about a package which K9 'Tiger' had alerted to, and the package was marked. However, on the day the post office was to return the package because it had been sitting there for a lengthy period of time, this Customs Officer came and picked it up.
“Initially he came in the morning; however when he arrived, our K9 Supervisor was present, and he just left. But he returned at a later time, claimed the package and when asked to have the package inspected he refused. He opened the package himself, took out a shirt, and refused to allow on-duty customs officers to inspect the package, given it’s a marked package. And he left with the box,” said the customs officer who wished not to be named.
Samoa News understands the package was addressed to a family in Faleniu that is under the police microscope in connection with drugs.
Samoa News also understands the customs agent in question left the next day for his basic training off island yet the matter was not dealt with, until he returned from his training.
Samoa News contacted Chief Customs Officer Glen Lefiti, who noted that an investigation is underway and said this particular customs officer has not violated any laws of American Samoa. Lefiti further stated that this issue should not be printed in the paper.
However several customs officers contacted Samoa News urging an investigation into this matter.
One disappointed customs officer noted that the alleged action of this officer defeats the purpose Customs Agents are hired for throughout the world — to guard the border, to reduce imported contraband, and for weapons and illegal drugs interdiction.
“This agent who took off with the package should have never left the Post Office with the marked package,” he said, adding, "This is just unacceptable”.
He further stated — as their Chief Customs Officer stated in his letter to the governor, “Our mission statement has it that we are the guardians of our Territory’s borders — American Samoa’s frontline!”
“We serve and protect the American Samoa public with integrity, innovation and pride. We enforce the laws of American Samoa; safeguard/collect the revenue and foster lawful international trade and travel,” he noted.
This letter was sent by Lefiti defending the Customs Office practice of checking travel documents at the airport, in response to Governor Lolo’s letter regarding the review of travel documents of passengers entering the territory via Hawaiian Airlines. At the time, the Governor called the practice “sheer chaos that does not bode well for his administration.”