Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Bermuda: Minister moves to tighten up searches of private planes and yachts

Members of the Public came out to listen to Paula Cox and Ministers speak about a the Budget during a town hall meeting at Clear water Middle School. (Photo by Glenn Tucker)

Private planes and yachts coming into Bermuda will face a more robust regime to ensure they are free of contraband, National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief told a town hall meeting last night.

The Minister admitted to around 40 people in attendance at the meeting to discuss the national Budget that there had been some protocol breaches in handling people coming into the Island on yachts.

Premier Paula Cox, Public Works Minister Michael Weeks, Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert were also in attendance to explain highlights of their budgeting for their portfolios.

Mr Perinchief was asked at question time whether security measures for passengers coming off private planes would be beefed up, as the perception was that such passengers get lighter treatment.

“As it stands, Customs are supposed to be taking care of that side of it,” he said. “What you will find is that many of these flights that come in, the owners and occupiers of those planes are regular travellers and business people who are fairly respected. However, we do not do the rigorous searching that you would on a commercial airline.

“But it is up to Customs and it’s a point that I will check on, if there’s some perception or if there is potential for breaches that is certainly something that should be looked at.”

Guilden Gilbert picked up on the theme later in the evening and told the Minister that he was aware of a “number of these so called responsible people being taken to court and locked up”.

Mr Gilbert said a number of years ago he came across two persons who were caught with drugs in Europe and, upon returning to Bermuda he discovered that one of them had been heading to Bermuda as a guest of the then Governor.

“I watch yachts coming in practically all the time,” he said. “I’ve seen colored [black] yachtsmen leave Bermuda, go offshore, have problems with their electronics, then come back and by the time they come back the police are down there with dogs. I’ve taken pictures of that.”

But, Mr Gilbert said, other yacht visitors get a red carpet treatment. “When they come into that Customs club, we see many of these Customs officers come and smile, and these people who they do not know get off their yachts, go inside, sign the papers and off they go.”

He said: “I believe these yachts should be searched with dogs all of these yachts because there’s a whole pile of drugs, contraband, guns and all the rest of it being brought into this Island and nothing’s being done about it.”

Mr Perinchief said that he was aware that the protocol for arriving yachts had sometimes been breached.

“I have moved to tighten up those protocols. It is a manpower issue.”

He said that some yachts had been intercepted coming to the Island with contraband.

“We are really trying to spot prolific offenders early.”

Mr Perinchief added that efforts are underway to reorganise the Bermuda Regiment to operate as a coast guard.

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