Three Stabroek Market vendors were yesterday charged with breaking and entering the L. Seepersaud Maraj and Sons jewellery store and carting off $22 million in jewellery and cash and police said two of them have confessed to the crime, while their lawyers claim they were tortured.
Clifford Rodney, 66, of 265 One Mile, Linden, Albert DeFreitas, 54, of 100 Leopold Street, Werk-en-Rust, and Trion Park, 31, of Lot 107 Eccles, East Bank Demerara, were read the joint charge in Georgetown by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan, who remanded them all to prison.
It is alleged that Rodney, DeFreitas and Park, between July 2nd and July 3rd, at Stabroek Market, Georgetown, broke and entered the store and stole a quantity of gold and diamond jewellery, valued at $20 million as well as $2 million in cash.
The men were not required to enter a plea to the indictable charge.
Police prosecutor Neville Jeffers objected to bail being granted, citing the value of the articles stolen, the nature of the crime, and the fact that Park has a pending matter at the Providence Magistrate’s Court, while Rodney has a pending breaking and entering charge before Magistrate Leron Daly in Georgetown. The prosecutor noted that in the case of DeFreitas, the accused is a repeat offender.
As it relates to the involvement of each defendant in the commission of the offence, the prosecutor stated that Rodney admitted to being the person who cut the jewellery store’s safe, while DeFreitas admitted under caution to assisting Rodney in doing so.
Meanwhile, attorney Adrian Thompson, who represented Park, told the court that his client was held over seven days without charge. The lawyer added that Park denies knowing anything about the crime.
Rodney’s attorney told the court that her client, who was arrested at his home, is a businessman. She alleged that while in custody, Rodney was tortured by police. The attorney alleged that a black plastic bag was placed over his head and he was shocked. Additionally, the court heard from the lawyer that the police arrested the defendant’s two sons and told him that they could all be put away, which caused him to agree to making a video recording for police.
The attorney for DeFreitas noted that he too was tortured, including being beaten on his testicles.
Each attorney requested bail on behalf of their clients. DeFreitas’ attorney stated that the accused is ill and requires an injection every 72 hours. However, medical papers supplied to the court failed to substantiate the claim.
Prosecutor Jeffers stated that he had no knowledge of the accused being tortured. He also said that in the case of DeFreitas, there are medics at the Camp Street Prison who can administer medication to him if needed.
As a result, the bail applications were all denied and the men were remanded to prison until July 23rd, when their next hearing is slated.
On the morning of July 3rd, the jewellers discovered that their stall had been broken into and that their vault was cut open after a fellow stallholder alerted them.
“The vault had three (3) doors and each door was cut with precision. It is sufficient to say that the perpetrators of this crime aren’t novices, but highly skilled thieves,” the store owners said in a post on the company’s Facebook page.
They said based on advice from security specialists and persons trained in ironworking and welding, it would have taken no less than five hours for the vault to be cut open.
The robbery, which is suspected to have taken place on the night of July 2nd based on the time when an alarm was triggered, has resulted in the city council announcing plans to increase security at the municipal markets.