(Trinidad Express) The e-mails are fake.
Based on the documents before him, this statement has come from acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams on the 31 e-mails read by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley into the Hansard in Parliament on May 20.
“Those documents are purporting to be e-mails but they are not. They are fake,” he told the Express in an exclusive interview at Police Administration building in Port of Spain last Friday.
Pressed by the Express to explain this point, maintained that the e-mails were not authentic.
The authenticity of the e-mails and their content have been the subject of political posturing by the highest office-holders—Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Rowley.
And other top office-holders have also been dragged into the “emailgate” probe, including chairman of the Integrity Commission Ken Gordon, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard and Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
Even the top cop’s ability and that of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) to properly investigate the matter have been the subject of public debate amidst the 46-day-old police probe.
The e-mails’ authenticity was only one facet of the police investigation.
While their authenticity was dismissed by Williams, their content—an alleged plot to cover up the Section 34 debacle; an attempt to bribe the DPP by using the Chief Justice to offer him the post of High Court judge; and an attempt to intimidate a reporter working on the Section 34 fall-out—was not.
“But do those documents read by the Opposition Leader represent the content of e-mails or exchanges? That is what the police is looking into,” he noted.
The Express understands that the e-mails, in part, represent intercepted conversations between individuals involved in emailgate.
Williams chose not to comment on whether Rowley’s document could be intercepted information.
For now, he said, emailgate is not a criminal investigation, only a probe.
“There is no established criminal offence. A probe into the content of the e-mails should help us determine what offences, if any, were committed. If there was an offence, no probe would have been necessary and the police would have acted,” he explained.
In his view, the only legal authority to have conducted such a probe was the Police Service and not the Integrity Commission. He noted that very often the Integrity Commission refers matters to the TTPS for investigation. He further dismissed the suggestion that any foreign entity could have conducted an independent investigation on emailgate without the TTPS.
“That suggestion is so foolish and it’s coming from people who are supposed to be intelligent. I repeat, the only legal authority to investigate this matter is the TTPS,” said Williams.
Questioned on whether there could be a perceived conflict of interest in him investigating the Prime Minister and the Attorney General given that he sits in on meetings of the National Security Council (NSC) with them, Williams said he was not a member of the NSC.
When the Express pointed out that previous Commissioners Dwayne Gibbs and James Philbert were members of the NSC, Williams said he was often asked by the chairman of the NSC, Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, to brief the council, but he was not a member.
In his view, any concern about him being partisan to the People’s Partnership Government is misplaced.
He said in his 37-year career at the TTPS, he had never been affiliated to any party and would conduct his job with a level of integrity.
And if that meant putting high officers behind bars, if there was evidence, then so be it, he added.
Cognizant that the public was eager to learn the outcome of the emailgate probe and several other high-profile matters, Williams explained that bureaucracy was a necessary evil in the police business.
The onus on the TTPS, he said, was to do a thorough investigation and build airtight cases on all matters. Some matters, like the CLICO probe for instance, he explained, required more dexterity and specialised investigation.
He said Director of Public Prosecutions Gaspard only handed over the matter to the police in November 2012, almost three years after CLICO went belly up.
Another investigation, the alleged re-introduction of the “Flying Squad” by former minister of National Security Jack Warner, was being wrapped up by Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Simon Alexis, he said.
That matter was referred to the TTPS by Persad-Bissessar on March 1.
In the case of emailgate, Williams said the Government’s intervention by providing expert witness statements to the TTPS was “not an aid to us”.
At the end of the day, Williams explained that despite being furnished with expert opinions, the Police Service will do its own original work on the matter.
He deemed the exercises of the AG and Prime Minister in this regard as futile.
DCP Mervyn Richardson, who is investigating the e-mail matter, has dismissed the provision of expert IT pronouncements on the e-mails as a “sideshow”.
Williams maintained that a successful and timely probe into emailgate couldn’t take place without the cooperation of Persad-Bissessar, AG Ramlogan, national security adviser Gary Griffith, Local Government Minister Surujrattan Rambachan and Rowley.
He said the investigators would explore all facets and ensure that all service providers are targeted for information.
Asked if he felt the politicians’ pronouncements on the Police Service have affected the public perception of the TTPS and its ability to handle the matter, Williams was undaunted.
He noted that elections are won and lost on the issue of crime in T&T.
“The single biggest issue for the TTPS is the public perception to police and crime. There is no overnight fix for us. We will have to earn the public trust and regain public confidence in order for us to progress,” he said.
But Williams, who was last week appointed by the Police Service Commission (PSC) to act for another six months as Commissioner, said politicians’ statements on the police were simply for political gain.
He explained that if crime statistics were high, they were used by the Opposition to flog the Government. Conversely, when crime statistics were favourable, they were used by the Government of the day to bolster support.
“If the government changes, it would just be the flipside. The political statements are based on which side of the divide you stand,” said Williams.
He noted that the public formed an opinion on the entire Police Service if a police officer, for instance, is charged with stealing a gun or if a police officer if charged with rape.
He said it was critical to get rid of the “bad eggs”.
At the moment, he said, he was reviewing how to work within the system to remove bad eggs. Williams suggested that the challenge to keep officers straight was a simple case of money.
“Money can play a very influential part when someone is in need of money. We need to move officers up to the middle class, like Margaret Thatcher did in the UK, so that temptation is not there. Further, once there is an attractive remuneration package we are able to attract better talent and we can improve overall standards of the TTPS. My vision is for a professional Police Service,” he said.