¶2. (C) RSO Port Louis recently met with the Director of the Mauritius Customs service, Bert C. Cunningham, a Canadian citizen who has held his post since October of 2002. Mauritian authorities brought Cunningham into Mauritius, as an impartial foreigner to fight corruption in the customs service. Despite some success, such as securing a massive increase in customs duties paid (without an increase in rates), Cunningham is currently considering departing the island permanently. He is frustrated in his efforts to bring to justice corrupt officials in his own department; he suspects deeply-rooted corruption in high levels of the government; and last but not least – he received death threats against him. Consequently, Cunningham sent his family back to Canada in an effort to protect them.
¶3. (C) Cunningham mentioned several recent cases to RSO (detailed in subparagraphs a through d below), all of which he has complained about to the State Law Office and other officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, whom he feels to be unresponsive due to “behind the scenes corruption. ” Cunningham stated that, during a meeting on April 11, 2008, with government officials, including the Financial Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ali Mansoor, and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Khemraj Servansing, he was told in no uncertain terms that he should remain quiet about the alleged corruption because if it were to become public, it could bring down the current government of Mauritius. Cunningham noted that he felt warned or even threatened during the meeting. Cunningham also stated that he recently received written death threats, which he threw out. (RSO advised him to retain such threats in the future.) Cunningham detailed four cases as examples of corruption in Mauritius. Details of cases a) through d) follow:
a) In the first example, Cunningham received word from a confidential source that a large quantity of drugs was on its way from Madagascar onboard a passenger ferry vessel. On December 8, 2007, such a vessel arrived and a special Customs team was ready to inspect the goods being off-loaded, with plain clothes officers positioned at the entrance to the port to watch for whomever may come to take possession of the drugs. The officers noticed that six Malagasy women were being held in secondary inspection pending deportation by the immigration police. The immigration police prevented the customs officers from questioning the six women, and attempted to prevent the inspection of their baggage and furniture. After finally getting a look at the goods, 27 kilograms of hashish, valued over $1 million, were found. The customs officer at the port entrance reported seeing the head of the Anti- Drug Smuggling Unit, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Rampersad Sooroojebally, arrive at the port, speak to a police officer, and then abruptly depart. Cunningham, who views this behavior as highly suspicious, believes the immigration police attempted to prevent the customs officers from inspecting the cargo because the police planned to “deport” the women and keep the drugs as part of an organized smuggling operation. (Comment: Sooroojebally’s actions do seem suspicious because if he was allegedly there to observe a drug bust; he did not go into the port, view the evidence, or laud his officers for the effort. End Note.) This incident could also be explained, however, as evidence of an ongoing rivalry between the Police and Customs Departments. Subsequent media reports gave the ADSU full credit for the bust without mentioning Customs. The lack of press attention is typical according to Cunningham, who is quick to emphasize that Customs is responsible for 80% of drug seizures in the country, while the ADSU normally gets the credit. End Comment.