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Chronology of two crimes untold

By Michael Harris

January 16, 2014
Mark Laria, area port director for US Customs and Border Protection, announces the seizure of cocaine with a street value of up to US$100 million during a media event in Norfolk.

January 19, 2014. Sunday Express
The United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is in this country investigating the US$.6 billion cocaine bust in Norfolk, Virginia, USA, which originated from Trinidad and Tobago, the Sunday Express has learnt.

January 22, 2014. Guardian
National Security Minister Gary Griffith insisted yesterday there would be no cover-up over the $640 million seizure of cocaine which was shipped out of T&T concealed in fruit juice tins. He said so in a brief interview with reporters before the start of yesterday’s Senate sitting. Griffith said a meeting was scheduled for yesterday between local intelligence agencies and US agencies, including the DEA.
US DEA officers and local detectives are said to be close to making an arrest.

January 24, 2014. Newsday
Arrests in the $640 million cocaine bust could be coming in a matter of days, after the United States Justice Department yesterday issued a Diplomatic Note to this country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The Diplomatic Note calls for a provisional warrant of arrest for three businessmen who are central to investigations into the smuggling of 332 kilos of cocaine from the Port in Port of Spain to the Norfolk Port in Virginia, USA.
Sources confirmed that the Note was received by the Foreign Affairs Ministry yesterday, but it was not known if the Note was forwarded to the Central Authority in the Ministry of the Attorney General, which is charged with processing all requests for extradition of wanted persons.

February 3, 2014. Guardian
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday declined to comment on the ongoing investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration into the $644 million cocaine bust in Virginia last December. He said: “That is a matter of rather sensitive and delicate constitution. It involves inter-governmental relationships and all I can say is the Central Authority, which falls under my jurisdiction, remains poised, willing and able to assist and to continue to assist in this investigation.”
February 16, 2014. Sunday Guardian
The two-month-old multi-million dollar cocaine bust may have disappeared from local front pages, but is still engaging the attention of the United States investigators. In a brief response to questions from the Sunday Guardian, the US Embassy stated that it cannot give any updates on the investigation as its policy does not allow any comment on continuing investigations.

February 20, 2014. Express
National Security Minister Gary Griffith is not saying whether or not there are United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers operating in Trinidad and Tobago.
“I have no intention to make any statement to a matter that is currently being investigated. There is an obvious reason for this. We do not want to drop the ball. All I can say—it will be improper of me to say if DEA agents are here. What I can state is that individuals who continue to mention all the number of DEA officials who turned up here, it was not Gary Griffith, it was not the Prime Minister; those questions should be turned to the individuals who said that. I never said if they were here and if they were not,” he said.
January 23, 2014. Letter to the Editor by Tyrone Evans. Express
JUST like with the Section 34, the Flying Squad, the fallen firetruck, the emailgate debacle, the fraudulent diplomas and countless other scandalous events, this recent multi-million-dollar cocaine intercept will end up on the comedy shows and in the calypso tents. And when the laughter has finally died, the case of the cocaine find will be consigned to the same place as the others: the cabinet that houses the Akiel Chambers file.
And the fishes—the big ones, that is—will spread their fins and continue to foul the waters.

February 1, 2014. Raffique Shah column. Sunday Express
Within days of the announcement by US authorities that they had intercepted 700-odd pounds of cocaine shipped from Trinidad to Norfolk, Virginia, and the well-publicised arrival here of a number of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, I sensed that something had gone awfully wrong.
As the media frenzy rose to frenetic proportions—Messrs Big facing imminent arrest, extradition underway, DEA interrogates Customs, and so on—the missing links in a successful drug bust were too glaring. Based on my experience …..I concluded that little or nothing would come out of this seizure.
In other words, de bust buss!

February 16, 2014. Guardian
A Big Hoax! That’s how Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner described media reports that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents had arrived in Trinidad to investigate the $644 million cocaine shipment that was intercepted by US customs at Norfolk, Virgina, last month. Warner said based on media reports, citizens were fooled into believing that DEA agents were in our shores, but this was not the case…
Warner said the Sunshine newspaper contacted the DEA in Miami, Virginia and Washington, who said agents were not here. The newspaper contacted special DEA agent Joe Moses of the DEA Affairs Unit in Washington, who has an office in Trinidad. “He (Moses) said he personally had no knowledge of DEA agents in Trinidad.”

• Michael Harris has been for many years a writer and commentator on politics and society in Trinidad and the wider Caribbean. His column returns on March 10.
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