Thursday, December 14, 2017

Five accused granted $5.4m bail

Sangre Grande bank robbery


curious: A crowd awaits the arrival of the five suspects in the Republic Bank robbery yesterday outside the Sangre Grande Magistrates’ Court. —Photo: AYANNA KINSALE

Mark Fraser

Five men were granted a total of $5.4 million in bail when they appeared before a Sangre Grande magistrate yesterday charged with the daring $4.5 million heist at the Republic Bank’s Sangre Grande branch on Carnival Saturday.

The accused are Chaitram Mohammed, 27, of  Vega de Oropouche, Toco Road, Sangre Grande; Navin Juteram, 34, of Mohammed Drive, Sangre Grande; Jason Villafana, 41, of Guaico Village, Sangre Grande; Kumar Narine, 21, of  Freeport; and Sateesh Boodram, 33, of East Dinsley Gardens, Trincity.

Around 10.48 a.m., Eastern Division officers stopped traffic along the Toco Main Road, directly in front of the courthouse, as they transported all five prisoners from the Sangre Grande Police Station to the neighbouring Magistrates’ Court. 

This move was supervised by Senior Supt Othneil Williams with assistance from Supt Ramkhelawan, and Sgt Harper, and was necessitated as a result of a large number of onlookers who had gathered to see the men allegedly responsible for the robbery. 

This group proceeded to heckle the alleged robbers as they were brought to the court, condemning them for their alleged actions.

About 25 minutes after arriving at the courthouse, the matter was called, and all five accused stood in silence when they appeared before Magistrate Ejenny Espinet in the Sangre Grande Magistrates’ First Court.

Defence attorneys Shivan Jadoo, Dinesh Narine and Shivanand Dubay represented the accused men.

Villafana, Juteram, Narine, and Mohammed were jointly charged with breaking and entering, and with stealing the estimated $4.5 million from the bank,—inclusive of 340 euros, US$264, and £2,160— on a date between February 28 and March 1, 2014.

Juteram was also charged with receiving stolen property, namely $46,800 in cash, and Boodram was charged with receiving stolen property, namely $2,108,220 in cash.  

Narine, Boodram and Juteram were also jointly charged with robbery with violence, as well as with breaking and entering for an incident which allegedly occurred at the RBC’s Guayaguayare Branch on January 16.

None of the five accused were called upon to enter a plea after the charges were read. 

The attorneys all made bail applications on behalf of their clients, which were not objected to by police prosecutor, Sgt Rameshwar Gopaul. 

After a brief deliberation with the court, all five accused were granted bail with a surety to be approved by a clerk of the peace. 

Villafana was granted bail at $900,000 and both Juteram and Boodram were granted bail at $1 million each. Narine was granted bail at $1.2 million and Mohammed was granted bail at $1.3 million. 

The matter relating to the alleged Republic Bank robbery was then adjourned, and is expected to be recalled tomorrow, while the matter related to the RBC incident is expected to be transferred to the Mayaro Magistrates’ Court, and recalled on March 24. 

The complainants in the matter were Insp Wayne Doodhai, Insp Singh, and Cpl Rachart of the Fraud Squad and Eastern Division.

Police had previously reported that on March 1, around 2 a.m, a group of men broke into the Republic Bank Sangre Grande branch by prising open a back door to gain access to a vault containing the money. 

Police said they responded to a report from a security officer who was on duty at the bank at the time, but when they arrived, the thieves had already escaped. 

In a full-page advertisement in the newspapers last week, the bank said electronic items, including video footage, were handed over to the police as they continue their investigations into the incident. 

The following day, on March 2,  six men were detained by police and questioned in relation to the robbery. Based on information supplied to investigators this led to the arrest of a 51-year-old attorney on Saturday last, and the recovery of some of the stolen money in Las Lomas, on Sunday afternoon. 

However, following extensive investigations by officers of the Eastern Division and the Fraud Squad, under the supervision of Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenn Hackett, five of the men were charged and brought before the courts. 

Police sources also confirmed yesterday that, after seeking instructions from Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard SC, instructions were given for the 51-year-old lawyer to be released on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to directly link him to the offence. 

Regarding the January 16 incident at RBC, police reported that at about 5.30 a.m., officers of the Eastern Division received a call informing them of a robbery at the RBC branch at Guayaguayare. 

A party of Eastern Division officers including Sgt Mickey Williams, Sgt Ramdhan, Cpl Bachoo, PC Mannah, PC Singh and PC Baran rushed to the bank, only to see four men running off. 

The suspects had reportedly beaten and tied up two security officers who were on duty at the nearby Lennox Petroleum compound, before stealing electrical tools and sledgehammers from the compound, which they then used to attempt to remove the automated teller machine (ATM) at the nearby RBC branch.