Cops raid 7 mansions in Trinidad but find nothing

SORT officers stand guard outside the Gulf View, La Romaine home of businessman Simon Alexander yesterday. The officers raided the mansion and six other properties during an exercise.

(Trinidad Guardian) Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Re­sponse Team (SORT) po­lice of­fi­cers raid­ed sev­en man­sions in the posh res­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ty of Gulf View, La Ro­maine, yes­ter­day, break­ing down doors and pre­vent­ing home­own­ers from en­ter­ing their premis­es.

The raids prompt­ed cries of po­lit­i­cal vic­tim­i­sa­tion, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and vic­tim­i­sa­tion by home­own­ers who called on Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith to is­sue a state­ment.

How­ev­er, se­nior sources said one man who was hid­ing on one of the prop­er­ties dur­ing the raids was ar­rest­ed.

Members of SORT conduct a search at the home of south businessman Simon Alexander at Penny Avenue, Gulf View, La Romaine.

The first raid took place at 5.50 am at the Pen­ny Av­enue home of Si­mone Alexan­der, the own­er of Al­lied Home In­dus­tries Lim­it­ed. Af­ter two hours of­fi­cers left emp­ty-hand­ed, but they con­tin­ued raids in town­hous­es and man­sions be­long­ing to oth­er busi­ness own­ers, in­clud­ing SM Jaleel and Com­pa­ny CEO Aleem Mo­hammed.

Re­tired oil work­er Ravi Di­nanath said he got up as usu­al for his morn­ing walk when he saw the po­lice at Alexan­der’s home. The street had been blocked off and Di­nanath said he took a de­tour and con­tin­ued on his busi­ness think­ing the po­lice were do­ing their du­ties. “I had no idea they would come to my home next. Some­time lat­er, when I walked back to my yard, I saw about a dozen po­lice in the back. They did not al­low me to en­ter the prop­er­ty. The po­lice had face masks and gog­gles. I nev­er imag­ined any­thing like this would ever hap­pen to me,” Di­nanath said.

He added that it was on­ly when me­dia cam­eras ar­rived he was al­lowed back in­to the house. Di­nanath said his wife Lelawa­tee was held at gun­point in a room and she be­gan suf­fer­ing an asth­ma at­tack. “The po­lice were ag­gres­sive and they asked for my son who was at work. They nev­er showed a war­rant. They nev­er ex­plained what they want­ed with him. It is un­fair that I worked so hard and now in my re­tire­ment, I can­not en­joy my life,” Di­nanath said.

Asked whether he planned to take le­gal ac­tion, Di­nanath said he had no mon­ey to hire a lawyer.

Sources close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion ex­plained to Guardian Me­dia that they had re­ceived in­for­ma­tion about a high-risk sus­pect in the area and dur­ing one of their search­es a man who was found hid­ing was tak­en in­to cus­tody

The se­nior source ex­plained that in this in­stance, if you are pur­su­ing a sus­pect there is no need to ob­tain a war­rant to en­ter premis­es where the sub­ject is sus­pect­ed to be hid­ing.

The source al­so ex­plained that an in­for­mant in­di­cat­ed that a sus­pi­cious pack­age had been dropped off at a home in Gulf View on Thurs­day night and the search­es were al­so con­nect­ed to this in­ci­dent.

The in­for­mant, who was not too fa­mil­iar with the area, gave them a de­scrip­tion of a house of a par­tic­u­lar colour, but of­fi­cers were still not suc­cess­ful in find­ing the house—al­though they en­tered homes that were of sim­i­lar colour and de­sign.

Mean­while, Suresh Ramd­han, own­er of Gopauls Elec­tron­ics and Princess Cos­met­ics, claimed his home was raid­ed with­out a war­rant. Say­ing the raids were a po­lit­i­cal witch hunt, Ramd­han said he was ap­palled that the po­lice would break down doors and raid the premis­es of law-abid­ing cit­i­zens. Ramd­han, of Seav­iew Park­way, said he was not at home when the po­lice ar­rived and or­dered his sis­ter-in-law to open the house.

Ramd­han said he has been do­ing busi­ness in San Fer­nan­do for over 40 years. “I am a hard-work­ing man and I feel as if my right to pri­va­cy and en­joy­ment of my prop­er­ty has been in­fringed,” Ramd­han told Guardian Me­dia.

“Peo­ple are look­ing at me as if I am a crim­i­nal. The po­lice treat­ed me as if I am a crim­i­nal. It is trau­ma­tis­ing for me and my fam­i­ly.”

The busi­ness­man said he did not know if his home was now bugged and if the po­lice had plant­ed sur­veil­lance de­vices in his premis­es. He al­so claimed the po­lice used a sledge­ham­mer and broke down the front doors of a house owned by a re­tired Na­pari­ma Girls’ High School teacher Minty Ish­mael.

Ish­mael lives in a se­nior cit­i­zen home and her daugh­ter comes to the premis­es reg­u­lar­ly to clean it. Ramd­han said Ish­mael’s home was left un­se­cured by the po­lice af­ter their search.

Res­i­dents said the raids were not or­gan­ised and seemed to be a “botched ex­er­cise,” as the po­lice seemed un­clear and un­cer­tain about what they were do­ing.

Up to 2 pm, res­i­dents were seen sit­ting out­side on their bal­conies and pa­tios as po­lice of­fi­cers made con­stant pa­trols.

Com­mis­sion­er Grif­fith yes­ter­day re­ferred all ques­tions to his com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­part­ment.

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