The following is a news release from the Office of Sen. Mary Camacho Torres:
To stem the tide of drug trafficking into Guam, senators unanimously approved a measure that would authorize asset forfeiture for the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency (CQA).
Introduced by Senator Mary Camacho Torres, Senator Telena C. Nelson, and Vice Speaker Tina Muña Barnes, Bill No. 87-36 would empower the CQA to take possession and title of property acquired in violation of local customs law—depriving criminals of ill-gotten gains while augmenting the agency’s operations.
Despite being the island’s first line of defense, Guam Customs possesses limited forfeiture control, receiving portions of proceeds primarily through equitable sharing with federal law enforcement partners. Under Bill 87, the CQA would be granted local forfeiture authority similar to the Guam Police Department’s Special Asset Forfeiture Fund (10 GCA, Chapter 79).
The measure comes at a time of continued shortfall in Customs operations. In the last four fiscal years, nearly $4 million has been cut from CQA’s budget—a concerning reduction given the agency’s mandate to protect Guam’s borders and secure ports of entry. As a recent study published by the University of Guam Regional Center for Public Policy (UOG-RCPP) noted, reduced funding has led to a shortage of manpower, hampers efforts to intercept illegal cargo, and compromises community safety.
To help Customs become self-sustaining, all proceeds from the sale of property forfeited under Bill 87 would be set aside in a local asset fund and channeled directly to the agency—allowing for future hires of personnel, training, enhancement of facilities, purchasing of equipment, and other needs.
Torres’ measure further mandates the promulgation of rules and regulations, which must be approved by the Attorney General of Guam prior to moving forward. These rules would include the procedure for collection of penalties as well as periodic review of the costs for providing storage, destruction, and administrative fees.
“By granting Guam Customs the same authority provided to other local law enforcement, this Body sends a clear message that criminals will not profit from their crimes,” said Senator Torres. “I thank my colleagues for their support and ask our Governor to empower our First Line to protect the island and sign this measure.”