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Samoa customs denies releasing Pago turkey tails

Customs officers have denied releasing two boxes of turkey tails without permits – including one box belonging to a passenger met by the Speaker of Parliament.The Customs denial conflicts with two statements, one given by the Speaker of Parliament La’auli Leuatea Polata’ivao, and one from a third person, another passenger.Both said passengers had been allowed to take packages of turkey tails, without a written permit, from the Customs desk at Fagali’i airport, after a flight from American Samoa.However, in an email response to questions from Samoa Observer, Customs denied allowing any packages to be released.Instead, they said both packages were held, pending permits.“Please note a Customs Officer does not have the authority to release any bio-security products without an ok by Quarantine,” said Comptroller of Customs and CEO Pitolau Lusia Sefo Leau.“I have also been able to seek a report from our Customs officer on duty on 3 November 2013,” Pitolau wrote.“Our Customs Officer's recollection of the incident referred to concerning both passengers is that both brought boxes of turkey tails without Quarantine permits for importation of meat products.”She said the customs officer on duty explained to the “first” passenger, Usoalii Leo, the Quarantine regulations in respect of meat imports and in particular the Customs Regulations and the applicable duty rate for turkey tail imports of 300 per cent + VAGST.“The Customs officer further explained that because the total value of purchases that he (the passenger) had declared and checked as imported products (turkey tails plus other items) are within the passenger allowance of SAT$500, the turkey tails will therefore not be charged any duty and taxes.“Our officer also further explained that because he (the passenger) does not have a meat import permit, under the Quarantine Act, his box of turkey tails will be detained by Quarantine.”He then referred the matter to Quarantine officers on duty she said.This also contradicts the claims from Usoalii, who said that he had been standing in line when La’auli walked past him and went first.