Cache of arms seized at Tema Port

BY: Della Russel Oclo
Some of the seized arms and ammunition after the exercise. Picture: DELLA RUSSEL OCLOO
Some of the seized arms and ammunition after the exercise. Picture: DELLA RUSSEL OCLOO

The Preventive and the Counter Terrorism units of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) seized some arms and ammunition at the Golden Jubilee Terminal at the Tema Port last Thursday.

The items — nine side arms (pistols), eight assault rifles and 219 pieces of live ammunition — were discovered during physical examination of a 40-footer container meant for house-to-house delivery.

The container was supposed to be holding personal belongings, often listed as clothing, shoes, home accessories, television sets, among others, imported from the United States into the country.

Seizure

The examination team, during the joint exercise, also found 81 pieces of live ammunition, two handcuffs, three binoculars, as well as their associated cleaning kits, a seizure notice on the items sighted by the Daily Graphic indicated.

Highly placed sources at the Customs Division told the Daily Graphic that the concealment meant that the items were restricted and, therefore, subjected to outright seizure to allow for further investigations.

The importers, the sources said, had no permit from the Ministry of Interior and so the items were not declared in the customs documentation covering the other items, including a car that was in the said container on arrival.

They said while the identity of the owners was not readily known, one Ebenezer Mireku Kissi was listed as consignee, with Tobitek Agency as the clearing agents.

“The team, during the operation, observed that a name, Melvin Quanteh, was inscribed on the barrel in which the arms and ammunition were concealed, but investigators are yet to establish that fact, and the clearing agency will be required to produce the owners of the items,” the sources said.

The Daily Graphic understands that an initial report on the interception has been sent to the Commissioner of Customs, while further investigations are underway to identify the true identity of the consignee, after which the case will be handed over to the police.

The intercepted items have been deposited at the Customs State Warehouse facility at the port.

Concealment

The concealment of arms among personal belongings by breaking them into smaller quantities and distributing them among a number of consignments is said to have become the newest way by which people are smuggling arms into the country.

While Customs officials at the port would not readily provide information to that effect, Daily Graphic sources said officials at the port periodically discovered one or two arms in some consignments during physical examination, after such cargoes had been flagged as ‘Red’ by the scanning devices at the port.

Scanning of imports and exports serves as a risk mitigating measure, as experts believe shipping containers could be delivery vehicles for chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons by terrorists.

The procedure which is able to identify cargoes through the three main channels, namely, red, yellow and green, also serves to significantly reduce the time needed for inspecting containerised goods by way of physical inspection, which often causes multiple burdens by way of time and associated cost to importers.

Attempts to solicit responses from both the Tema Sector Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Customs Julius Kanton Aweya, and the Commissioner, Col Kwadwo Damoah (retd), were unsuccessful.

Similar incident

This is not the first time that the officials have intercepted arms smuggled into the country.

Earlier in June, three rifles concealed in some consignments at the Golden Jubilee Terminal of the Tema Port were seized.

Officials said the rifles were hidden in barrels that contained items declared as personal effects.

Also on October 9, 2020, the GRA made a similar seizure of arms made up of 436 pistols, 26 packs of 50 pieces of ammunition and 1 (40ml) pepper spray on a container that arrived at the Tema Port.

The container, which was described on arrival at the Tema Port as containing personal effects, household goods and a carding machine, was flagged as ‘Red Channel', and after examination, the concealed items were found.

The items had been imported into the country without the necessary permits from the Ministry of Interior. They had also not been declared to Customs on arrival.

An inventory of the items was taken in the presence of officers of the Preventive Unit of the Customs Division (Intelligence & Examination Officer), the National Intelligence Bureau, the National Security and the police.

All the representatives, including the clearing agent, signed against the total number of arms and ammunition seized.

Also, a seizure notice was issued to the clearing agent and the seized consignment was put in the custody of the Customs Division.

Although the GRA did not name the clearing agent then, it indicated that he was assisting the Tema Harbour Police Command in investigations.

Meanwhile, the Customs Division has provided the police with the necessary information and given an assurance that the outcome of investigations by the police on the restricted items would be made public.

The GRA, at that time, cautioned all importers that the importation of arms and ammunition could be done only with a permit from the Ministry of Interior, and that those items must be declared on importation.