BVI News

Customs boss hits back at detractors for ‘misrepresentation’

Commissioner of Customs Wade Smith

Customs Commissioner Wade Smith has accused his detractors of presenting alternative facts, following criticisms of his agency’s recent crackdown on companies that fell afoul of the territory’s maritime regulations.

Her Majesty’s Customs (HMC) fined several companies, including the popular Moorings and Sunsail hundreds of thousands of dollars in an operation that saw well over 100 boats being detained for various infractions.

In a statement issued yesterday, March 24, Smith said he has heard the criticisms about the detention of vessels that were operating without safety certificates and licenses and said he welcomed discussion with respect to the topic and any opposing views.

However, the Customs boss argued that even the most cursory research on this issue would dispel myths or overt misrepresentation that was being circulated.

“Unfortunately, too frequently in our territory objections are raised with no regard to any legitimate basis. In essence, people create their own ‘truth’, or as one American politician coined it, ‘alternative facts'”, Smith stated. 

He added: “It is also a shameful reality that these hasty and spontaneous reacts are rooted in self-serving agendas, political ambition, or ignorance.”

Smith said that as head of Customs and the Joint Task Force, he recommends that everyone consider the foundational basis for his agency’s actions before regurgitating unsubstantiated information.

“Misrepresentation of the facts creates chaos and mistrust in our community,” Smith stated

Things could have been done differently

Smith attempted to dispel the argument that things could have been done differently by Customs.

“Some have argued that our application of the law could have been done differently. I have heard; ‘it should not have taken place in the Marina’. Others have lamented that it should not have been done during the tourist season,” he stated.

In response, he rhetorically asked if Customs as law enforcement officials should allow laws to be breached until it is convenient for the violator.

“Our laws are not directives of convenience, but ordinances created for the protection of the populace, with no regards to the imposed moment of ideal timing,” he argued.

“Our agency is not one that is created to operate at the whim and fancies of those who may have covert agendas, or those who might fear negative financial stresses because of our lawful action,” Smith added.


Copyright 2024 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.


Disclaimer: BVI News and its affiliated companies are not responsible for the content of comments posted or for anything arising out of use of the comments below or other interaction among the users.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Wade, the same idiots complain when police slow with apprehending criminals but made a whole set of excuses for businesses that breached laws. They had months to comply and still did not. The laws should not be put on hold until convenient to offenders. Some of them even want to change the law to suit themselves.

    Like 23
    Dislike 19
    • Rubber Duck says:

      He likes to quote the law. But one principle of law is that it is applied equally to all.

      He didn’t get that bit.

      Like 20
      Dislike 7
    • Balance says:

      While I understand this should or could have been handle differently and not in the peak of the season, Mr. Smith is task with the responsibilities of keeping safety on the water.

      There has been boats in BVI waters that sank with people on board and also boats that catch ah fire in shark infested waters.

      There is no wrong time to crack down. Now don’t turn a blind eye and the same with these vessels trafficking drugs.

      Like 1
      Dislike 7
      • Hmmm says:

        Problem is, in almost every other way we are a “blind eye” culture.
        Look at all the unsolved murders – people in the community know who commit them, but no one won’t turn in one of our own.
        Look at the scooter law enforcement.
        Look at all the broken rules the COI upturned when the government squirmed and whined and said it was too difficult, everybody else doing it, and all that set of weak excuse, and Willock dem making out like to focus on enforcing these laws is just the colonialist oppressing us.
        Look at the main pillar of our economy, drug smuggling. You think the community isn’t turning a blind eye to that law-breaking every day? You think Customs officers all the way up don’t know about stuff going on by friends and relatives and even colleagues? (You think those smuggling boats have all the required safety equipment?)
        This is enforcement of laws that have been ignored for decades and there is an agenda behind suddenly doing it. A smart government would examine the laws and see if they are truly helping us. If not, re-write them so they make sense to keep people safe at sea, businesses from collapsing and the BVI from making its reputation even wore than it already is.

  2. Keep going says:

    Looking forward to seeing an equal increase in activity during the dark hours…

    Like 39
  3. power drunk says:

    Now I see why district 5 didn’t elect him

    Like 18
    Dislike 12
  4. ungratefulness says:

    That’s not the way to treat people who carried the strain by keeping people employed during hard times and who hired the majority of locals back in the 70’s when things were hard

    Like 27
    Dislike 16
    • GTFOH says:

      Some would say drug money built the BVI. How much gratitude should we show the D-boys? You cant have it both ways. It’s not Ok to turn a blind eye when suits one side then complain when the same thing happens in other cases.

      Like 25
      Dislike 4
  5. go from here with your damage control says:

    You’re singlehandedly trying to destroy tourism which is what put the BVI on the map…We are the sailing capital of the world….The Moorings made sailing in the BVI what it is today…You tried to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs

    Like 50
    Dislike 14
  6. UK Own says:

    I Hope he Deal with his Friends with Speed boats like he dealt with the Charter Companies..Many of his Friends sailing in and out like they working for Customs but want to hurt the Charter companies who offer services for the Police for free back in Lock down time..The Bvi is too small for you people to be trying Petty Stunts.The Regatta is here and people is Caanceling because of the nonsense.No one is saying they shouldn’t be regulated but do it in a way to benefit both Parties.

    Like 45
    Dislike 5
    • To UK own says:

      Of course he WOULDN’T crack down in his friends and he know why

      Like 17
      Dislike 2
      • 0% says:

        @ UK OWN

        His friend with the barges come and go as he likes. Only special Custom Officer is allowed on his barges when they come. Those who will turn a blind eye to the cargo. Wade gor who he for, the rest can go to hell. So he monitors and charge fees to companies doing honest business, but his croonies and best man go free to do as they like.

        Like 18
        Dislike 1
  7. What’s next says:

    I’m just waiting for him to crackdown on the tourists coming with coolers and suitcases full of food. I pay duty when I shop St Thomas, why not they? Oh,that’s right, they special because they spend money getting loud and drunk.

    Like 3
    Dislike 20
    • Bad info says:

      They absolutely do charge tourists a duty on the food we bring. I bring a cooler on each charter and they routinely charge me 20-40$ on arrival. Then I get loud and drunk (that part was correct).

      Like 26
  8. Real talk says:

    Immigration need to sniff out these pockets of racist inviduals living here in my country

    Like 13
    Dislike 16
  9. VI Gyal says:

    In all the years you been there this is the first in my life I have seen such a crackdown. These laws been there. What prompted this?

    Like 20
    Dislike 1
  10. UKM says:

    Wade Smith There is right and wrong way to do things and you went the wrong way because of your show of force you have given the BVI a bad name. You don’t go around tourist with guns. The boats were at the dock so how you figured that they brake the law, anyway whatever the reason it should have been handled differently you don’t mess up peoples vacation like that, Did you even know it was spring break? you guys are all about the money and to hell with reason. no one is saying you should have let go what we are saying you handled it wrong.

    Like 35
    Dislike 2
  11. LB says:

    This is why you didn’t get elected. You have no humility. You think you alone know everything and only you know how to handle everything. Should have never given you that job back.

    Up to note he can’t say what the misinformation was that was being spread! Sick of this cl**n. Ronnie better don’t pick you back up again for PVIM.

    Too defensive and hard-headed. That title of boss needs to be stripped from you.

    Like 24
    Dislike 1
  12. hmm says:

    some stuff that they are not accepting are already accepted by us coast guards.

  13. BVI Future says:

    Power struggle!

  14. granny says:

    Its not wha yo do, its how yo do it

    Like 13
  15. The Truth says:

    “Our agency is not one that is created to operate at the whim and fancies of those who may have covert agendas… ”
    The truth is, Customs has been selectively enforcing the laws of the territory for donkeys years. This latest folly isn’t a new arrangement, or a new law. But it hasn’t been enforced much over the years. Then the heavy hand of the tax man (Customs is a taxing agency) decided, with effectively Zero Hours Notice, that they start drumming up some cash, and yachting is a soft target (Not many voters there). Add in some onerous paperwork, coupled with creating a confrontational atmosphere, and a few other various bureaucratic demands, and you have the current enforcement scenario.
    Put two and two together here… An audit is breathing down their necks at Customs, and the Commission of Inquiry is as well, and suddenly we get the Customs version of “Supercop”.
    What nobody seems to see is the public relations debacle that the Commissioner has created. Want to bet that over at the Tourist Board they’ve finally thrown up their hands and have quit trying to put a positive spin on whatever Customs does today? And over at the Shipping Registry, wait for it, it will take longer, but new registries will plummet. Yacht Brokers know what is going on and will warn buyers off of flagging their boats in the BVI.
    Has anybody accused the Commissioner or perhaps the Hon. Premier of being myopic?

    Like 17
  16. Wow says:

    This is why outsiders come to BVI and do as they please. Rules are meant to be followed not broken. Mooring should be ashamed of themselves. All the more reason they should not have been in this predicament. All the more reasons they should have followed the laws of the country. Shameful on Mooring behalf.

    Like 5
    Dislike 15
  17. now I c y says:

    No wonder nobody want to flag their boat in the BVI because shipping registry and customs full ah {bleep}

  18. Pity says:

    They get away with it all the time so they get upset when they get pull up. Guess what there is always a first for everything.

    Like 2
    Dislike 4
  19. Above says:

    This man feels as though everyone is below him so he will not listen to anyone. I remember when he told Mr Pickering at the port that he don’t speak down.

  20. Hodge says:

    Things could have been done differently. HM Customs could have held meetings with the Tourist Board, the Min. of Finance and the Moorings and other affected Charter Companies to reach an amicable solution before doing what they did given the number of tourists who were around at the time. Regardless of how you look at it, the way it was done was foolish and ill conceived. I laugh at the approach taken in the circumstances. Sometime its good to be flexible. Doing things only because you think it will bring fame or attention to your department whilst singularly destroying the tourism sect is not always the best approach. Talk with the key stakeholders, let them know what you are going to do, that way you’ll accomplish what you are trying to accomplish whilst saving the vital tourism industry. Sometimes we allow power to get the best of us. “If you want to see the true measure of a man, give him power.”

    Like 9
    Dislike 2
  21. Wade Relax. says:

    U have no law enforcement or management experience…U needed to look at the situation assessed it carefully. Look at your decision and the impact of your decision…U still retain the most powerful word in law enforcement…”Discretion”…Use it!

  22. Reactive government says:

    Nobody says what you did is unlawful
    . You have crippled the industry by the way you enacted the law
    Give the operators time to get their act together that would lead into the next season

    How many tourist have died in the BVI because of a boating accident . Bvislandres are not stupid people

  23. LOL Dumb says:

    Wade you tried… but you spewing nonsense. None one said you were not enforcing the law. The fact remains you did it poorly and you have set the Tourism Sector back and ruin the reputation of the BVI!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, this will be a bruise on the BVI reputation for over a decade.

      The real issue here is that the customs and immigration officers are unwelcoming and mean to the tourists who wants to come spend money on our islands. This has got to change. The first impression and last impression a tourist gets is sometimes just unpleasant and frequently missable.

  24. So like tv says:

    Yeah one way news is the best news.

  25. forward neva says:

    in the meeting they mentioned safety on planes, what planes have oxygen and life vest, well those very life vest on the planes are being rejected on the boats. There are some companies here with more safety stuff onboard their boats than what they are looking for here. some very important stuff too that they should look for but i guess they don’t about about the existence of those safety stuff in the first place.

  26. Regatta shrinking says:

    The upcoming spring regatta list of yacht entries seems to be shrinking. Before the customs raid on the charter companies the entry list was over 80 yachts and today it is down to 70. Why? The bareboat fleet dropped from 28 yachts to 19. Seems like 9 Moorings/Sunsail yachts won’t race this year. Maybe these sailors decided to visit Antigua for the Classics Regatta next week instead of coming to the BVI?

    • @regatta shrinking says:

      You have to admit that the number of non-compliant boats that have been made compliant in the past 10 or so days is remarkable. So many boats, for which compliance has languished for months due to paperwork overload, supply chain issues and short staffing have well- miraculously, really- become fully licensed! Although not every boat is compliant, it is a real tribute to the Moorings and Sunsail that they were able to get the work done so quickly.

  27. @@regatta shrinking says:

    this was because the stuff were ordered from before, some arrived same day customs were doing their thing. lots of companies affected was asking for two to three weeks.

  28. Beancrock says:

    I used to love the BVI and it was the sailing capital of the world.

    It’s destroyed it’s reputation in a few short years and I won’t be coming back and contributing to the tourist economy

Leave a Comment