Monday, January 22, 2018

T&T still awaiting news of ‘big fish’

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Mark Fraser

Six weeks have gone, and investigations into the world headline-grabbing Norfolk, Virginia drug bust have shown little discernible progress.

It is, of course, possible that law enforcement nets, both local and American, are being quietly tightened behind the sce nes. Yet enough information has already been made public that citizens could reasonably have expected some arrests by now or, if not that, concrete updates on an issue that has rightly concentrated the nation’s mind.

Whatever the present status of the investigation, it is mainly the chest-beating declarations of National Security Minister Gary Griffith which have raised citizens’ expectations that, for the first time, high-level local players in this trade will be held. The Norfolk drama, with all the elements of international intrigue and involving a well-known Trinidad brand name, should prove decisive in the assessment of the former Capt Griffith’s ministerial and political contributions.

Mr Griffith has emphatically vowed to follow the trail of the trafficking conspirators to wherever it leads, even if into the ranks of his own political colleagues and associates. “Regardless of who it is or how high it goes, I can assure you that I will do all I can to ensure that the persons are brought to justice,” the National Security Minister told the Express 19 days ago, adding, “People always ask about the ‘big fish’, well I want the ‘big fish’ badly.”

Mr Griffith additionally gave the impression there was an active collaboration between Trinidad and Tobago’s security personnel and the better-resourced US investigators, hence raising high hopes for a timely wrap-up to this affair. Meanwhile, given the splashy America-side announcements connected with the drug bust, it is reasonable to wonder about progress being made in that country. Have the American sleuths been able to identify and track down those persons who were supposed to receive the TT$644 million shipment of cocaine-filled juice cans? Have they gathered hard evidence which will lead to the arrests and, more importantly, the conviction of the “big fish”?

Despite continual declarations of zero tolerance for drug trafficking and billions of dollars spent on this war, successive T&T administrations have continuously failed to make any significant dent on the trade. The drug and gang nexus holds tight, with related murders still being regularly committed and, inferring from the total lack of prosecutions, laundered drug monies continue to skew the national economy.

T&T has become accustomed to drug-related investigations going cold, but it would be a despairing reflection on all concerned if this big international case were to suffer the same fate. The public needs more than mere assurances from Mr Griffith that, this time, it will be different.