Poitier v Comptroller of Customs

CourtSupreme Court (Bahamas)
JudgeGonsalves-Sabola, J.
Judgment Date23 March 1988
Docket NumberAppeal from Magistrate's Court
Date23 March 1988

Supreme Court

Gonsalves-Sabola, J.

Appeal from Magistrate's Court

Comptroller of Customs

Mr. R. Maynard for the appellant

Mr. S. Brown for the respondent

Customs and excise - Uncustomed goods — Possession — Trespass to goods — Failure to pay customs duty — Customs Management Act, 1976, ss. 114(d) (iii), 116 (f), 2(1), 8(1), 9 — Appeal dismissed — Vehicle removed from the dock without permission to do so.

Gonsalves-Sabola, J.

The magistrate at Freeport convicted the appellant of two offences under the Customs Management Act, 1976 and imposed on him fines of $400.00 and $300.00 respectively with an alternative term of imprisonment in leiu of each fine. There was no appeal against sentence but the conviction for each offence was appealed against on several grounds.


The facts involved can be stated simply. On 2nd October 1983, the appellant, a Customs officer and his American wife arrived at Freeport, Grand Bahama aboard the M.S. Scandinavian Sun, a ship operated by a certain shipping agent. The ship had sailed from Miami, United States America. Aboard ship was a Datsun 280 ZX motor car. The appellant cleared Customs then sought but was refused permission to take possession of the said car which was manifested in his name as “principal driver.” The Customs were insisting that duty be paid on the car before its release. The appellant was told the reason why the car was not being released. Before landing the appellant told Assistant Comptroller of Customs Arthur Fountain, a fellow traveler aboard the M.S. Scandinavian Sun, that he and his wife were returning to Grand Bahama with an automobile. The appellant further told him that his was coming to the Bahamas to take up residence with him. After landing, the appellant in due course seemed to be intending to drive the car away from the inspection shed at Freeport so Arthur Fountain was summoned by a Customs officer on duty to advise the appellant as to the position with regard to the importation of the motorcar. Mr. Fountain advised the appellant that duty was payable on the vehicle and that the car should remain at the dock.


The next day, 3rd October 1983 a report was made to Mr. Fountain as a result of which he spoke with the appellant. The appellant admitted removing the car and said that the car was in his yard wherefrom it was in fact later seized by the Customs. Besides the admission to Mr. Fountain, which the learned magistrate accepted as having been made, there was ample evidence circumstantially corroborating it. There could not have beet any reasonable finding that anyone other than the appellant had removed the car from the dock.


The next question is whether the appellant had any authority to remove the car. Section 116(f) of the Customs Management Act, 1976 provides as follows:

“Any person who, in any matter relating to the Customs –


(f) except by authority, moves, alters or in any way interferes with any goods subject to Customs control;


commits an offence and shall on summary conviction therefor be liable to imprisonment for three years, or to a fine of five thousand dollars or to both.


An argument that was advanced before the magistrate and repeated on appeal was that since the appellant was a...

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