(Trinidad Guardian) A Canadian businessman has warned his countrymen to be careful when travelling to Trinidad after he was arrested for possession of three empty bullet shell casings and kept for a week at the Maximum Security Prison (MSP.)
On Thursday, in an interview with a Canadian-based news outlet, businessman Brian Doubt recounted coming to Trinidad on a layover flight from Guyana on his way home and being arrested for possession of three empty bullet cases, which he was using as keychains. He said the bullet cases were inert and could never be fired.
Doubt, who owns Sergeant Preppers Army Surplus, did not say when the incident took place but told news outlet KelownaNow in a 19-minute interview of his experience. The store Doubt owns sells genuine military clothing, accessories, and other military memorabilia.
Doubt said he came into the country and went through Immigration after getting off the airplane. He said when he tried to go through Immigration again to sit in the waiting area, he was stopped and questioned about his keychains.
“They were like, what are you doing with this? And the same things had been through airport security in Kelowna, Miami, and Guyana. They told me this is illegal here and we consider this ammunition. I told them it was not ammunition and they said in Trinidad even an empty shell casing is considered ammunition,” Doubt said.
He was charged for possession of ammunition without a licence and for attempting to board an aircraft with ammunition.
Recounting his experience, Doubt said he had to pay the arresting officers to get him a meal.
“They do the paperwork and give me two charges, possession of ammunition without a licence because I don’t have a licence in Trinidad, I have one in Canada and attempting to board an aircraft with ammunition. I spent the night in jail, I had to pay the officers to buy me something to eat, they got me KFC and I gobbled it in the back of the van with my handcuffs on because I didn’t know how long I would have to eat.”
After he was taken to court, Doubt said he realised he was in deeper trouble than he initially thought.
“When I was talking to the Airport Authority officers, they told me I just had to go to court, plead guilty, pay a fine and I would be on my way. When I get in front of the magistrate, she said I didn’t have to enter a plea right away for the first charge but the second charge was indictable and I could not plead, that would be sent to the High Court.”
After a week in the Maximum Security Prison’s remand yard and hiring a lawyer, Doubt said he was ordered to pay $5,000 in fines.
But he told KelawnoNow that he had to tell the story of the other foreigners he met while at MSP.
“I got to tell the story about these guys, there are Canadians just languishing in there—one guy was there for 14 months, just waiting for his sentencing. There were Venezuelan guys there, they had not done anything, they were just picked up because they were in the country after fleeing the turmoil in Venezuela. There were some Nigerian guys who were given deportation orders, they had sued the State and were put in the penitentiary and they are just in there.”
He said the ordeal put him under a “huge financial strain” from which he is still trying to recover.
Doubt used his experience as a cautionary tale for other Canadians: “Be careful when you travel outside of Canada or North America, to countries where the justice system is run by unscrupulous people. Trinidad used to be a nice place and it has gone downhill over the last several years. There have been articles about this, you can get someone killed in Trinidad for about $1,000, the crime rate is very high there, it is a rough country now—it used to be nice but I wouldn’t consider visiting there again.”