Grenadian-born Chester Simon who resides in Switzerland has complained of not getting answers from local officials involved in the seizure of a container that he brought into the country with supplies for the Ministry of Health and others.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference held last week Friday at the Tropicana Inn in St. George’s, Simon charged that just about everybody involved in the container issue is backing out of the matter.
The Zurich-based Spice Islander spoke about wanting to clear his name before he embarked for Switzerland last Saturday in light of a government release which indicated that he made a false declaration to Customs on the items in the Container.
Simon had handed over $250, 000 worth of medical supplies for the Ministry of Health, all of which was handed over before the container was locked down by the Customs Department.
Simon who has been sending donations to Grenada since 2004 said the release put out by the Government Information Service (GIS) which states “the Government of Grenada welcomes all appropriate donations especially in the health sector but we strongly resist any attempt to defraud the Government of much needed revenue” shocked him.
“This touched my soul for the same reason. I’m not a fraudster, I know there are many fraudsters who passed through Grenada but I am not one of them. I am a Grenadian born and raised in Birchgrove and I will always help in ways I could help in Grenada all the time,” he told reporters.
With respect to the process which took place at the Port on the importation of the container, Simon said that everything went smoothly.
“The container was cleared through Customs, I had a broker and what I’m reading in the newspaper most of it is false, for the simple reason people are saying that there were stuff in the container, which weren’t declared – this is a pure lie”, he said.
“…I probably made one mistake – instead of putting personal effects, I put special effects. I had a chat with Miss Antoine and I had a meeting with them in the office and I explained to them the reason why I made this mistake…”, he added.
According to Simon he had made a similar declaration before on items sent to Grenada “and there was no problem, so I don’t see the reason why anything should be a problem (now)”.
He said the other stuff in the container were musical instruments for a school in Birchgrove.
“The stuff I had in the container, which I said was personal effects … I want to open up a school in Birchgrove…for the youth. My brother was one of the best musicians Grenada ever had – his name was Broko..
I wanted to do something in the name of my brother”, he remarked.
He also spoke of having items in the container for an Old People’s Home which the Ministry of Health “had asked me last year if I could get” and that “all this is in the container”.
Simon said he had no reason to hide anything from Government and that he was merely “trying to give back as he always does”.
He stated that the container was moved from the Port and he had asked for permission to put it next to the warehouse of the Mental Hospital at Mt. Gay since it would have provided easier access for the items from the container to the warehouse.
“The Government authorised piece of land for me so if I was hiding anything and trying to defraud the Government, I wouldn’t be that stupid to put a container up there,” he said.
Simon pointed out that he had a personal vehicle in the container which he declared to the customs and paid duties on it.
He said he offered to help the cash-strapped government to freely distribute some of the items during the two weeks that he intended to stay on the island.
“… Nobody said anything but two days after they received the medicine, two Custom Officers came and put a lock on the container and said Mr Simon, we have to investigate what’s in the container. I said investigate what…they said come down to the Customs with me to make a statement,” he told reporters.
The businessman indicated that he had to put everything on hold including his trip back to Switzerland and his restaurant operations due to the fact that he had to change his plane ticket in order to remain longer in Grenada to try and resolve the container issue.
A clearly disappointed Simon said that despite doing all this he is not getting answers from the local authorities.
“I talked to the Health Minister, Mr (Nikolas) Steele, two or three times and he said in a couple days everything will be sorted out, I’m still waiting. Now I have to go back on Saturday and before I go back I want to clear my name. No matter what happens…I will still help the Grenadian people but it will be a different way – I don’t know what way yet but I have been treated like a criminal,” he remarked.
According to Simon, if the Ministry of Health had a problem with the items in the container it should have been pointed out to him.
He feared that there is something going on in Grenada that is definitely sending the wrong message.
He reportedly put a lock on the container and made arrangements with a lawyer to look after his affairs in the matter.
Government has indicated that Customs is in the process of examining the Container and that the matter will be determined by the Comptroller of Customs.