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Dr Raj can sue Customs in sex toys impasse
Businessman and sex therapist Giriraj “Raj” Ramnanan has been given the green light to pursue a lawsuit against the Comptroller of the Customs and Excise Division over the seizure of three shipments of sex toys and other paraphernalia.
Delivering an oral ruling at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday, High Court Judge Ricky Rahim granted Ramnanan leave to pursue his judicial review lawsuit against the division.
In the lawsuit, Ramnanan, the owner of Total Image Limited, is claiming the division is acting illegally in its delay in bringing proceedings against his company to forfeit the allegedly prohibited items. His lawyers, Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh and Karina Singh, contend the Customs Act requires the division to bring such proceedings within a reasonable time after a seizure.
Before granting leave, Rahim asked the division’s lawyer, Harricharan Kassie, about the alleged delay. Kassie could not immediately justify it before Rahim.
Rahim gave Ramnanan’s lawyers until October 9 to file the claim and adjourned the case to November 1.
According to an affidavit from Ramnanan attached to the judicial review application, he purchased and shipped the packages to Trinidad between August and November, last year. The packages, together valued at US$1,045.27, contained condoms, penis pumps, whips, vibrators and dildos. The packages were seized by the division’s enforcement unit for containing prohibited items.
In February, Ramnanan and his attorneys met with Customs officials over the shipments and were offered to plead guilty to the illegal importation of the items or face forfeiture. However, no forfeiture proceedings were filed and the items were not returned.
While Ramnanan elected to not plead to the charges, he admitted he had done so with other shipments in the past. But saying he did so begrudgingly, Ramnanan said: “However, on the majority of occasions the very same items would be released after being initially detained by Customs because the presiding Customs Officer was of the view that the very same items were not breaching the law and not indecent or obscene.”
Ramnanan claimed his business has suffered as a result of the seizures.
In addition to declarations that the division acted illegally and an order seeking the immediate release of the items, Ramnanan is seeking financial compensation for the losses he incurred.
The issue of the legality of importing sex toys arose last month after e-courier Web Source issued a notice to its customers warning that such intimate items fell under the division’s list of prohibited items. The list included other conventional contraband, including drugs, firearms and camouflage clothing.
But Finance Minister Colm Imbert responded to public furore over the issue, saying there was no law directly prohibiting the importation of such items. However, he noted it was within the division’s purview to determine what constituted indecent or obscene items under the legislation.
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