–in businessman Ahmad’s condensed milk importation case
ACTING Chief Justice Mrs. Yonette Cummings-Edwards has discharged the Order or Rule Nisi of Certiorari in the matter brought on May 23, 2016 by businessman Rafik Ahmad against the Government Analyst – Food and Drug Department for refusing his container of sweetened condensed milk entry into Guyana.
The acting Chief Justice found that the respondent, Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department, had demonstrated good reason why the container should not be allowed in the country.
Director of the Food and Director Department, Marlon Cole, had refused entry to Ahmad’s container, currently detained by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), after it was established that Ahmad was attempting to import Moi sweetened condensed milk, a product made from vegetable fat-based milk, and not a dairy product as is required by Part IV, Division 5 (Dairy Products) (13) of the Food and Drug Regulations of 1977.
Justice Cummings-Edwards ruled on October 18 that the decision by the Food and Drug Department, represented by Attorney-at-law Judy Stuart, was lawful, and done in accordance with the Food and Drugs Act, Chapter 34:04 and the Food and Drugs Regulations 1977, in conjunction with Section 43 Schedule 11 of the Customs Act, Chapter 82:04.
Represented by former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, Ahmad had in June moved to the High Court, seeking a release of the container of sweetened condensed milk, imported from Malaysia last year.
Justice Dawn Gregory had previously granted a number of orders directed to both the Food and Drug Department and to the GRA. Those orders included an Order or Rule Nisi of Certiorari quashing their decision to refuse entry to the businessman’s container, which is detained by the GRA and held at Muneshwer’s Limited on Water Street, Georgetown, on ground that the decision was unreasonable.
Additionally, the judge ruled that an Order or Rule Nisi of Mandamus be issued to the Commissioner-General of the GRA, instructing the said Commissioner-General to release Ahmad’s container, unless sufficient cause is shown why the Order or Rule Nisi of Mandamus should not be made absolute.
Ahmad had, in his affidavit in support, said he has been importing several products, including milk (sweetened and powdered) regularly for the past five years, and noted that he has never experienced such problems at ports of entry here.
Moreover, the businessman said, complaints were never lodged by the Food and Drug Department or any other agency about the quality of those products or their ingredients.
On October 26, 2015, Ahmad ordered a 20-foot container, containing 1325 cartoons of the sweetened milk, from one of his usual suppliers, Mewah Dairies. The shipment arrived in Guyana on December 30, 2015.
“Upon its arrival, my servants and/or agents were informed by the acting Director of the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department that the labels on the milk appeared to her to be fake. She failed to specify the basis for this conclusion upon further queries. On another occasion, my servants and/or agents were further informed that the milk constituents fell short of that which is required by the Food and Drug Regulations for evaporated milk,” he said.
However, Director of the Food and Drugs Department, Marlon Cole, in an interview with another media entity in June, said a number of discrepancies were found, including his (Cole’s) signature being forged.
“My forged signature was used to clear the consignment, and at the time it was recorded (as) full cream milk, which is exempted from [value added] tax, imported by Superfood Inc., by Rafeek Ahmad,” Cole had told Guyana Times.
He noted that Customs, an arm of the GRA, discovered the forged signature. The police were called in, and a staff of his entity was charged and placed on bail.
“We had wanted to retrieve a sample of the milk, but when we got to the container, it was not a container of full cream milk, but of Moi condensed milk,” Cole stated.
He said that when it was realised that the contents of the container were condensed milk, it was stamped “entry refused” in March.
“We found that it is milk filled with vegetable fat and is being sold as regular standardised milk. So Customs (retrieved) the entry and the item was changed to condensed milk. The importer had to pay $1.5 million in duty. It was presented to the Department, and was again stamped “refused entry” because it was filled with vegetable fat instead of animal fat.”