Chastanet seeks judicial review in customs case against Hilaire

Opposition Leader Allen Chastanet

Opposition leader Allen Chastanet has sought leave from the High Court to grant judicial review of the Customs and Excise Department’s decision to withdraw charges against Dr Ernest Hilaire for importing a Land Rover Sport vehicle.

According to Chastanet, the decision to close the case in December 2021, despite a public outcry for answers, was shrouded in secrecy, with the customs comptroller yet to provide any explanation, despite the fact that he, by letter dated January 4, 2022, asked several questions regarding the withdrawal from the case.

Dr. Ernest Hilaire
Dr. Ernest Hilaire

The application for judicial review was filed with the High Court on April 5, 2022 and alleges that Comptroller of Customs Mr Sherman Emmanuel and Inspector of Customs Mr Paul Noel unlawfully caused three charges brought to be withdrawn against Dr Hilaire.

“The Leader of the Opposition’s motion to the courts presents a strong and incriminating case of serious breaches of the rules of natural justice, violations of the right to due process and failure to administer the Review and customs management,” a press release said. release from the opposition.

The Motion asks for the cancellation of the decision of non-suit and the reinstatement of the proceedings on the grounds that Hilaire did not respect the instruction of the Customs Controller to produce the documents of the said vehicle.

Among the many reasons given for seeking redress from the courts were that the two individuals lacked the power under customs laws to withdraw the case; that the Director of Public Prosecutions had taken over the Customs case, so that the power to discontinue prosecution was a decision of the DPP.

According to Chastanet, the motion also highlights conflicts of interest in that the Comptroller of Customs breached the principles of natural justice by obtaining legal advice from the Attorney General who had previously acted as Hilaire’s lawyer in the same affair.

“It is further noted in the motion that the current Comptroller and Inspector of Customs failed to return the evidence collected from the former Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Peter Chiquot, which was admissible and offered a realistic prospect of conviction. The 17-page request lists in detail all known facts associated with the case, dating back to April 2015 when a Land Rover Discovery Sport was purchased in England and registered to the High Commission of Saint Lucia in London, D ‘where an active state. The Land Rover was then imported into Saint Lucia by Ernest Hilaire and received customs pre-delivery, pending the submission of documents to complete the entry. Years passed with the vehicle in pre-delivery, when in 2018 customs requested a commercial invoice from the supplier which Dr. Hilaire through his lawyer refused to provide to the customs department in order to close the entrance,” the Agency’s press release reads. of the Leader of the Opposition.

The statement further stated that the almost two years of correspondence between the Customs Department and Dr. Hilaire had produced no results for the requested documents and that the Customs Department, in consultation with the Office of the DPP, had made three charges. against Dr. Hilaire.

Chastanet, who made the petition to the High Court, explained the importance of resolving the case.

Chastanet noted, “We have exhausted all efforts to get answers on the matter. It would appear that the Customs Department, the Attorney General and the Prime Minister who was present when the case was withdrawn do not feel they owe an explanation to the public of Saint Lucia. Now we look to the judiciary to allow a review of this case; to examine all the shortcomings, inconsistencies, irregularities and even the conflicts of interest which led to the withdrawal of this file. The public deserves answers. As I have said before, this case has implications for all of us, not to mention the reputation of our institutions. At this point, this application to the High Court is our only recourse to understand the sordid details of what happened and the agreements that were reached in this case.

“This case should have been decided by the courts in the first place. Justice must be done,” he added.