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Inquiry Into Customs Officer

24 July 2000 Media Statement

Inquiry Into Customs Officer

A former Customs Officer is being investigated by police for alleged involvement in the illegal importation of stolen cars, Customs Minister Phillida Bunkle has revealed today.

"I have asked Customs Comptroller and Acting Chief Executive Robin Dare for a full report into this operation of importing stolen vehicles. In addition I have ordered a review of current vehicle importation procedures."

Ms Bunkle said the Customs Service and Police have been working together on the stolen imports investigation for some time.

"I was informed late last week that the Customs Service's own inquiries suggested that a customs officer was also involved. Police were immediately informed and the officer suspended from duty. The customs officer has since resigned.

"Customs has assigned a senior investigating officer to work directly with Police on the investigation into the former Customs officer's involvement. There are no indications that any other customs staff are involved in the stolen car investigation," she said.

Ms Bunkle said Mr Dare has reassured her that internal processes and procedures are being reassessed to guard against this sort of incident in the future.

"The success in cracking this illegal ring is the result of the close border scrutiny placed on vehicle importations. Having said that, I am very aware that consumers have had serious concerns about dodgy vehicle imports for a long time and that the last government failed to do anything about it.

"I take consumers' concerns very seriously. Since I have been Customs Minister, I have been working with urgency on illegal vehicle imports. This type of illegal activity must be stopped. As both Customs and Consumer Affairs Minister I want to get a much more rigorous system in place to ensure cars are legitimate when the New Zealand consumer buys one.

"I hope to be able to announce soon the measures I and other ministers have been working on in this area."


Note: The Minister and Customs Service will NOT be making any further comment as the matter is still subject to Police and internal investigations.

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