Stevedores deny $2.5M robbery, accuse cops of brutality

Three stevedores were yesterday remanded to prison after denying allegations that they stole over $2.5M from a King Street business.

Joseph Meredith, 20, Delon Halley, 23, and Dennis Dowding, 23, who were allegedly caught during an early morning bust by police officers at their supposed hideaway, maintained their innocence while also accusing the police of brutalising them.

The men were accused of breaking and entering the business place of Baxani’s Traders and stealing a quantity of televisions, a microwave and a speaker box, which were valued at $2,514,000 in total.

Meredith and Halley, both stevedores at Muneshwer’s Limited and Dowding, who is a stevedore employed with John Fernandes Limited, each refuted the charge when it was read by Chief Magistrate Priya Sewnarine-Beharry, who presided over their arraignment at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.

According to Prosecutor Michael Grant, on March 26 at about 5:30 pm, Harish Baxani, owner of the business, secured the King Street store and made his way home. However, he received a call at about 3:30 am the next day and was informed that his establishment was being ransacked. Prompted by the call, Baxani informed the police of the information he received and left for his store.

Police ranks were already on the scene on Baxani’s arrival, Grant further stated, and together they observed the defendants packing several items into a waiting car and leaving soon afterwards.

The officers along with Baxani followed the men and apprehended them at a home where a number of televisions were found inside. The sets were later identified by Baxani as belonging to the store.

However, each of the men vehemently contested the prosecutor’s claims, each offering a differing explanation.

Halley of 1A Holmes Street, Georgetown, explained that he had been on his way to work when he was approached by a police officer and accused of being a thief. Despite his pleas of innocence, he said he was nevertheless beaten, loaded into a police vehicle and arrested. He further stated that a gold chain he had been wearing at the time of his arrest was also removed by the officer.

Representing all three of the defendants, attorney Paul Fung-a-Fat claimed that his clients had been beaten while in police custody. Dowding, of 12A Rosemary Lane, South Cummingsburg, piped in that an officer had placed a gun into his mouth during questioning.

Meredith, of 24 Creen Street said that he had been mistreated by police ranks as well.

Fung-a-Fat added that the men had also been kept in police custody for five days without bail.

Prosecutor Grant objected to bail, citing the likelihood of the defendants being flight risks as his reason. During his objections, Grant revealed that the trio had been charged separately with similar offences. However, none of the men had been convicted.

The Chief Magistrate subsequently ordered an investigation into the allegations of brutality raised by the defendants. She also questioned why the men had not been brought to court within 72 hours of their arrest. Prosecutor Grant stated that he was unsure of why the trio had been kept in custody for such a long time.

Despite their pleadings, the three men were remanded to prison until April 13, when the case will be called for statements.

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