Port of Spain
Six individuals are being investigated in relation to the US$100 million cocaine bust in the United States in December where the drug was hidden in juice cans which carried local labels.
One of the people being probed is said to be a financier of a political party and may be the local mastermind behind the cocaine shipment, which was smuggled into Norfolk, Virginia, in tins labelled Trinidad Orange Juice, international law enforcement sources told the Sunday Express.
Sources said the man operates a multimillion-dollar business in Trinidad and also resides in the country.
So far, sources say, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the United States is still investigating the matter and officers are in the process of flying to other countries, seeking more information.
Earlier this year, two DEA agents arrived in the country, seeking the assistance of Trinidad and Tobago law enforcement.
Upon their arrival, they met with two of their colleagues who are based here.
Following a meeting with local law officers, the agents are said to have departed with shipping manifests and other documents.
Speaking with the Sunday Express on Thursday afternoon, Assistant Commissioner
of Police Glenn Hack-
ett said: “Local law enforcement are work-
ing alongside their foreign counterparts.”
Probed further as to who are the suspects, Hackett only said the matter is still the subject of an investigation.
Also contacted was National Security Minister Gary Griffith, who said regardless of who “the person is, there
will be a price to pay. I know the matter
with the cocaine bust; they (police) are working hand in hand with the DEA.
“Many people think this is a cold case, but it isn’t. Just by the fact that the DEA are heavily involved in this case means it will not be closed overnight,” Griffith said.
He said he has done research, and cases like this take about a year or more to be thoroughly investigated.
“What they (DEA) do is not what we see here, where you grab one person and the rest get away. No... from the driver, to the shipper to the receiver are caught. From captain to cook will be taken down. They (DEA) look at the paper trail of all their financiers and proceed from there,” he said.
On January 26, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told the media:
“The matter is under investigation and very sensitive and it would be inappropriate to comment.”
The Prime Minister noted two port scanners, purchased through grant funding at a cost of $25 million each, were in the country. The scanners arrived in T&T on December 26, 2013, while two others arrived in June this year.
At a news briefing in December 2013, Virginia police officers said the drugs carried an estimated value of US$100 million.
The cocaine was found concealed in fruit juice cans originating in T&T by United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Virginia.
Based on information received, the shipment was smuggled in Trinidad Orange Juice cans, which are manufactured by Co-operative Citrus Growers Association.
The cans were discovered in a shipping container which was destined for New York, USA. The cocaine was hidden in over 700 cans which were among thousands of cans, many of which contained juice.
SM Jaleel: Labels fake
In a release earlier this year on its website, local soft-drink manufacturer SM Jaleel said the company, which produces the popular juice drink, undertook an internal examination and the results showed the labels used on the Trinidad Juices cans found at the Port of Norfolk are “not real. They are fake”.
The company explained: “The colour of the text disclosing the net fluid ounces (at the bottom front) on the original and authentic labels are light green whereas the colour of that text on the product which has been seized is dark green.”
“It has become common knowledge that the criminals involved in drug trafficking have been using mechanisms to transport cocaine, inclusive of items such as fruit, car parts, lumber, hardware and various others. It now appears that someone may be trying to utilise our company’s product in this regard,” the company said.