National Security Minister Gary Griffith stated yesterday that the days of catching the petty criminals while allowing the ‘big fish’ free rein are over.
The minister gave the assurance that there would be no cover-up in the investigation of cocaine valued at US$100m (TT$644m) found in SM Jaleel Co Ltd cans bearing the labels of Trinidad Orange and Grapefruit juices and seized in Norfolk, United States. The seizure represents the largest in the history of the Port of Norfolk.
“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. People always ask about the ‘big fish’, well I want the ‘big fish’ badly,” Griffith told the Express.
Asked whether he was confident the ‘big fish’ would be caught, Griffith said: “I am confident that there would be no cover-up and that based on the investigation between the DEA (United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration) and our intelligence agencies, all mechanisms would be put in place to ensure that persons are brought to justice. The days of picking up the more junior person (criminal) and leaving it there, while allowing the ‘big fish’ to continue to get away are over. It is time that the ‘big fish’ stop swimming,” he declared. He added that Government hoped to use this situation to send that message.
Griffith was responding to the observation that when marijuana valued at $30 million was seized in frozen chicken at Point Lisas in 2011 no one was held accountable.
However, responding to statements from People’s National Movement Senator Faris Al-Rawi that there could be bloodshed since this was a drug deal gone sour, Griffith said that (Al-Rawi’s) statement could cause panic.
“I don’t want the country to panic, I don’t want people to have the fear that there would be mass killings,” Griffith stated, though he conceded that somebody is going to pay a price for the discovery of the cocaine. “Somebody involved in the drug trade has lost big money based on this (discovery),” he said.
He said he did not want to disclose any operational plan but stressed that major drug busts would continue to be made. He said 51 weapons had been seized in the first three weeks of this year, which is the equivalent of three weapons being seized each a day.
“We will continue to seize weapons, we will continue to make major drug busts but the individuals who continue to want to be involved in a life of crime, they would pay the price,” he said. “They would end up either behind bars or at the wrong end of a bullet,” he added.
On Al-Rawi’s statement that Government should make a statement on this important issue of the cocaine find, Griffith said: “As much as people would want to know what is going on, this is a matter that is ongoing, it is very sensitive. We have put all the mechanisms in place and I don’t want to say anything that would jeopardise the success of the investigation and the operation but the nation would be involved in due course.
“There is an investigation that is taking place. There is joint communication and collaboration between the US intelligence agencies and ours. All systems that we can put in place to ensure that there would be no set of reprisals would be done by the law enforcement agencies.”
Griffith also responded to criticisms that if local law enforcement authorities knew about the cocaine, they should not have allowed the cocaine to be packed and sealed in the cans and exported to the US ,saying too often the items are seized and the individuals are released.
“The only way you can get the individuals is by a proper sting operation where you can follow the trail,” he said. “And those are the things being done, instead of you getting a tip-off and rushing in there to lift up a piece of galvanise and seize (the product),” he said. —See Pages 4 and 10