Off duty T&T soldier shot dead

(Trinidad Express) While driving on his way to visit relatives in Beverly Hills, Laventille, on Sunday night, a soldier with the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, 32-year-old Lance Corporal Kayode Thomas, was shot dead.

The murder toll for 2014 now totals 213 compared with 185 for the corresponding period last year.

According to police reports, at about 11.30 p.m. on Sunday, Thomas, while off duty, was driving his silver Mazda 323 motor vehicle north along Plaisance Quarry Road, John John, Laventille, when residents of the area heard several loud explosions.

Upon checking they observed that Thomas’ vehicle had crashed along the roadway and that it bore several bullet holes to the front windscreen and bonnet of the car.

The police and emergency health services were notified and a party of officers from the Inter Agency Task Force, led by PC Richardson, responded to the report.

Upon their arrival, they observed the silver car had come to an awkward stop along the roadway.

Kayode Thomas
Kayode Thomas

The engine of the car, police said, was still running and the headlights were on, and when the officers looked inside the car they observed Thomas’ body slumped against the front passenger seat of the vehicle. He was wearing a grey and red vest, with blue denim pants.

It is believed Thomas died of his injuries almost instantly after being shot.

Officials from the Homicide Bureau of Investigations led by Superintendent Boxhill were notified and Crime Scene Investigators visited the scene. Over 30 spent shells were said to have been recovered.

Thomas, police said, was identified by his wife.

A district medical officer also visited the scene and ordered Thomas’ body removed to the Forensic Science Centre in St James.

Speaking to the media yesterday at the Centre, Thomas’ mother Marva was too emotional to speak and could only bring herself to tell reporters that her son was “a good boy who did not deserve to die the way he did.”

Other relatives, who asked not to be identified, said Thomas was a victim of the “ongoing war” in Laventille.

“It is known gangsters who living up there. The police know them, and they know the police, and the other day with the declaration of war against them, they too decided to declare war against the police and soldiers. That is why we think Kayode hadda pay the piper. They knew who he was. It is not like he was doing anything wrong or anything like that. But them gang men knew what he did for a living and he was targeted because of it,” one relative said.

Relatives also noted that Thomas was the father of eight children, the youngest child born merely two weeks ago.

Thomas’ death comes just after one week after the Defence Force issued a press release saying that it was under attack in certain hot spot areas throughout this country, and also raised concerns with the increase in the number of attacks on its members.

The T&T Defence Force, via a press release yesterday, noted that it was deeply saddened by Thomas’ death, and said it also remained committed to working with the TT Police Service and to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.

In the release, Thomas was described as a “proud and respected member” of the organisation who joined the Defence Force in August, 2004, and served nine distinguished years.

“He completed Basic Recruit Training at Teteron Barracks and was posted to the 1st Infantry Battalion as a Rifle Soldier. The Commanding Officer, Officers, Men and Women of the Regiment extend deepest condolences to the family of the late Lance Corporal Kayode Thomas. May they receive the strength from the Almighty God and the support from relatives and friends during their time of grief,” the release read.

Funeral arrangements for Lance Corporal Thomas will be announced when finalised.

Anyone with information who can assist with investigating this homicide is urged to contact the nearest police station, the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment at 627-2781 or use 800-TIPS.

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Delcidio do Amaral

Brazil corruption probe widens; Senate leader, BTG Pactual CEO arrested SAO PAULO/BRASILIA, (Reuters) – The chief executive of Brazil’s biggest independent investment bank and the leading senator in the governing coalition were arrested yesterday on suspicion of obstructing the country’s most sweeping corruption investigation ever. The detention of such prominent power brokers on orders from the Supreme Court raised the stakes dramatically in a bribery scandal that started with state-run oil company Petrobras and now threatens the heights of Brazilian banking and politics. The arrest of Andre Esteves, the billionaire CEO and controlling shareholder of BTG Pactual SA and Brazil’s most influential dealmaker, sent the bank’s listed shares into a dive that wiped out a fifth of its market value and raised red flags at the central bank. Brazil’s Congress also ground to a halt with the arrest of ruling Workers’ Party Senator Delcidio do Amaral, a veteran lawmaker who has run the economic affairs committee and who has been key to President Dilma Rousseff’s unpopular austerity program. Brazil’s currency fell as much as 2 percent as the scandal threatened both the country’s sixth-largest bank and the president’s sputtering efforts to pass a new budget and avoid another credit ratings downgrade to junk. Brazil’s central bank said it was monitoring the arrest of Esteves to see whether it would impact operations at BTG Pactual and trigger regulatory action. Banking analysts warned that BTG Pactual, the largest independent investment bank in Latin America, could struggle to navigate Brazil’s worst recession in a quarter century without its wunderkind founder at the helm. Clients withdrew funds equivalent to less than 1 percent of assets under management at BTG Pactual, which was less than had initially been expected by some, said a source with knowledge of the bank’s strategy. The six-year-old BTG Pactual, which manages about 230 billion reais ($61 billion), tapped less than 5 percent of its about 40 billion reais in cash reserves to cover those redemptions, said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. SHOCKWAVES IN CONGRESS The political gridlock that has obstructed economic policy this year is likely to worsen with the jailing of Amaral, one of about 50 Brazilian politicians under investigation for their alleged roles in a vast kickback scandal at the oil giant known as Petroleo Brasileiro SA. Amaral’s arrest was the first ever for a sitting senator in Brazil and it sent shockwaves through the capital. Congress suspended its sessions as senators met to discuss how to handle the arrest. After a heated debate in which some government supporters defended Amaral, the Senate voted 59-13 to uphold the top court’s decision to order his arrest. Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki said he authorized the arrest after prosecutors presented a taped conversation in which Amaral tried to bribe Petrobras’ former international director, Nestor Cervero, out of taking a plea bargain that could implicate the senator and other politicians. Prosecutors alleged that Amaral conspired to help Cervero flee authorities. They also said the senator offered a monthly stipend to the former executive’s family, financed by Esteves, who had obtained a copy of a plea bargain based on Cervero’s testimony. Cervero was received a 12-year sentence in August for corruption and money laundering in connection to bribes paid on two drillship contracts. Another defendant in the case testified that Cervero had passed bribe money to Amaral skimmed from Petrobras’ controversial 2006 purchase of a refinery in Pasadena, Texas. Amaral’s lawyer, Mauricio Silva Leite, dismissed the accusation that his client obstructed the Petrobras investigation, saying it was based on the word of a convict. He also criticized the Supreme Court for ignoring the senator’s immunity as an elected official. SHARES DIVE BTG Pactual confirmed the arrest of its chief executive and said the bank was available to cooperate with the investigation. Esteves’ lawyer, Antonio Carlos de Almeida Castro, told reporters that the banker “certainly” had not acted to obstruct the investigation. The bank’s listed units, a blend of shares in its investment banking and private equity divisions, tumbled as much as 39 percent to an all-time low on the Sao Paulo stock exchange before paring losses to 21 percent. Court representatives said Esteves had been arrested temporarily for five days, with a potential extension of five days. Amaral was arrested for an indefinite period. Esteves, 47, has drawn on powerful connections in politics and global finance to steer BTG Pactual through turbulent times as Brazil’s economy plunged into a sharp recession. BTG Pactual’s major deals with Petrobras have drawn the attention of investigators, including the bank’s stake in Sete Brasil Participacoes SA, a supplier of oil-drilling platforms that has been swept up in the probe. BTG Pactual also bought half of Petrobras’ Africa unit in 2013. Last quarter, credit to oil and gas and infrastructure companies, which are the most impacted industries in the widening graft probe, accounted for about 16 percent of BTG’s loan book. That is the largest exposure among Brazil’s listed traded banks, according to Thomson Reuters data. Brazil’s central bank said in a press statement that it was monitoring the arrest of Esteves, adding that BTG Pactual has solid liquidity indicators and continues to operate normally. The net worth of Esteves was last estimated at $2.2 billion by Forbes Magazine.


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