Trinidad: Five suspects in custody over multi-million dollar drug bust

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith overseas today’s drug bust in Westmoorings.

(Trinidad Guardian) An es­ti­mat­ed $15 mil­lion of co­caine and mar­i­jua­na were seized in a West­moor­ings apart­ment and five peo­ple were ar­rest­ed yes­ter­day, fol­low­ing a mid­day sting op­er­a­tion by the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Re­sponse Team of the Trinidad and To­ba­go Po­lice Ser­vice.

Four of the sus­pects, two women and two men, were ar­rest­ed af­ter the SORT unit stormed Apart­ment 1 at the posh Re­gent Gar­dens com­plex. An­oth­er man, who was al­leged­ly try­ing to get away af­ter re­al­is­ing his co­horts had been held, was ar­rest­ed af­ter po­lice in­ter­cept­ed the BMW he was dri­ving. One re­volver was al­so seized dur­ing the op­er­a­tion.

In­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cers last night said in­tel­li­gence had re­vealed that there was a Venezue­lan/Mex­i­can drug car­tel link to the seizure. They said lo­cals re­ceived a ship­ment as re­cent­ly as Mon­day night through an il­le­gal port of en­try and were in the process of prepar­ing the drugs for dis­tri­b­u­tion lo­cal­ly. The sus­pects are al­so said to tran­ship­ment to the Unit­ed States as well as lo­cal­ly.

They said the sus­pects have been op­er­at­ing their il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty in drug dens most­ly in west Trinidad, in­clud­ing Care­nage, Diego Mar­tin and Sea Lots, and have al­so been as­sist­ed by rogue el­e­ments of the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice and T&T De­fence Force.

Police arrest suspects in a drugbust in an apartment in Regent Towers, West Moorings yesterday.

So­cial me­dia was lit­tered with im­ages of the op­er­a­tion mo­ments af­ter it hap­pened. Im­ages showed the of­fi­cers ar­rest­ing the sus­pects, one of whom is a rel­a­tive of a for­mer part­ner of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young, col­lect­ing the drugs and search­ing ve­hi­cles out­side the apart­ment.

Of­fi­cers searched two parked Nis­san ve­hi­cles, an Almera and Juke for fur­ther drugs and weapons, re­mov­ing pan­elling from the ve­hi­cles as they did so. Snif­fer dogs were al­so called in to as­sist in the search.

Mean­while, out­side the com­pound, a rel­a­tive of one of the men ar­rest­ed told re­porters that he was at home in Diego Mar­tin around 9 am, when one of the fe­male sus­pects came ask­ing for him. She said she then found out via so­cial me­dia that he had been ar­rest­ed. She broke down in tears when she saw more pic­tures of her rel­a­tive bleed­ing af­ter he was sub­dued by po­lice.

Some of the drugs seized in an apartment in Regent Towers, West Moorings yesterday.

The po­lice al­so stopped a ve­hi­cle near the apart­ment com­plex and in­ter­ro­gat­ed its oc­cu­pants af­ter putting all of them to kneel on the pave­ment. They were sub­se­quent­ly re­leased.

The five sus­pects ar­rest­ed in con­nec­tion with the drug bust were said to be in cus­tody at the Four Roads Po­lice Sta­tion last night.

Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith ar­rived on the scene and an­nounced mo­ments af­ter that “hap­py hour over.” He said the lo­ca­tion of the drug bust on­ly served to show he was mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant dent in the drug trade.

“What I am do­ing is cut­ting the food chain, cut­ting the drug trade, the more drugs that I seize the more it is they are go­ing to make mis­takes. The more mis­takes they make, the more I’m go­ing to keep peg­ging them back,” Grif­fith told the me­dia.

“Some­body’s go­ing to have to pay the price for this. That is ir­rel­e­vant to me, my job is cut as many of the il­le­gal drugs that en­ter this coun­try and if it is it makes life dif­fi­cult for them … I in­tend to crip­ple the drug trade, I in­tend to crip­ple the trade of gangs and oth­ers who con­tin­ue to bring in guns and drugs in­to this coun­try.”

Grif­fith ex­plained that the sting was set up af­ter the po­lice re­ceived in­for­ma­tion on Mon­day about pos­si­ble drug ac­tiv­i­ty in the area.

The T&T Po­lice Ser­vice al­so dis­pelled a ru­mour that one of the women ar­rest­ed in the drug bust had in­deed been work­ing along­side the po­lice in the op­er­a­tion, af­ter a fake press re­lease ap­pear­ing to be from the TTPS sug­gest­ed one of the fe­male sus­pects had worked with them to bring down the drug op­er­a­tion. In a re­lease, the TTPS de­nied any­one ar­rest­ed was work­ing with the po­lice and stressed that the ar­rests were made off the strength of po­lice in­tel­li­gence.

Yes­ter­day’s bust comes just eight days af­ter an­oth­er sig­nif­i­cant bust in Val­sayn where 600 kilo­grammes of mar­i­jua­na was seized. One month ago, a sig­nif­i­cant cache of drugs and guns was al­so seized at a home at Munroe Road, Ch­agua­nas.

Ten­ants obliv­i­ous to il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ty

Chair­man of the Re­gent Gar­dens Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion David Fran­co said yes­ter­day that res­i­dents of the posh West­moor­ings apart­ment com­plex had no idea of the il­le­gal drug ac­tiv­i­ty go­ing on there un­til po­lice raid­ed the com­pound yes­ter­day.

Speak­ing to Guardian Me­dia hours af­ter po­lice seized over $15 mil­lion in co­caine and mar­i­jua­na at the com­plex, Fran­co said news of the drug bust came as a sur­prise to him and no res­i­dent had raised any re­al con­cern about in­di­vid­u­als com­ing in and out of the com­plex.

He could not say who the own­er of the unit which was raid­ed was but al­so said there was no screen­ing process to ob­tain an apart­ment there. He said leas­ing or rental of the apart­ments ul­ti­mate­ly was up to the own­ers, but al­so ad­mit­ted that the state of the re­al es­tate mar­ket of late meant own­ers were no longer as picky about whom to rent or lease to.

“It’s a tough mar­ket. It’s not like be­fore when you could wait for some­one from At­lantic or some for­eign­er. The mar­ket is tough,” he said.

Fran­co told Guardian Me­dia that as­so­ci­a­tion will like­ly re­lease a cir­cu­lar ask­ing own­ers to be more cau­tious when they are rent­ing or leas­ing to in fu­ture.

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