gone to argentina: Garvin Heerah

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Key man flies out

New Flying Squad fiasco

By Asha Javeed asha.javeed@trinidadexpress.com

The man with answers on the existence and operations of a New Flying Squad Investigative Unit (NFSIU), Garvin Heerah, flew out of the country yesterday.

And National Security Minister Jack Warner, who yesterday continued to deny that he knew of the existence of the NFSIU, has requested a report by noon today from Heerah.

The Express learnt that Heerah, director of National Security Operations Centre (NSOC) and a retired Lieutenant Commander of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, left Trinidad yesterday morning.

The Express was told that Heerah is bound for Argentina for national security meetings.

Heerah aided former Flying Squad member Mervyn Cordner, who claims to now head the resurrected unit, to procure vehicles and a suitable location for operations when there was no Cabinet approval for the setup of the unit.

He also facilitated meetings with Cordner and for a "civilian" to loan him eight vehicles (station wagons and sedans) for use without payment.

Cordner has produced e-mails from November 2012 to the Express which showed that Heerah had authorised him and team to "continue what they were doing" until they could be called in for a meeting.

The e-mail trail had also quoted Heerah as stating that Wayne Riley, adviser to National Security Minister Jack Warner, was out of the country and when he returned they would have a meeting for "final sign off." In addition, Heerah had been in touch with Rocky Pacheco, an accountant at the Ministry of National Security on Cordner's behalf.

Heerah heads the NSOC which is intended to be the central point from where all national security operations are to be coordinated and from where the National Security Council will receive briefings on national security operations to be chaired by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Heerah's actions are in direct contradiction to Warner's consistent claims that the unit did not exist.

It was Cordner who approached National Security Minister Jack Warner in July 2012 with a proposal to resurrect the unit which had operated in the 1970s and 1980s under former commissioner of police Randolph Burroughs.

Cordner had proposed that he head a 75-member team with a focus on intelligence-based policing. He told the Express that dissatisfied with the pace at which the Ministry was taking to pump money into the operation, they were forced to close shop in December 2012 and returned the vehicles.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Warner maintained that he never gave approval for a revival of the Flying Squad. He admitted to meeting Cordner on two occasions which lasted a total of 60 minutes. He said when Cordner first approached him with the proposal to bring back the unit to fight crime, he took the idea to acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams who immediately dismissed the idea because of the character of the proposed officers.

Warner said the idea never got off the ground because Cordner had questionable credentials and no approval from Williams.

"I can tell you again— there is no contract, no e-mails and I am totally unaware of any house which was rented. I remain perplexed and amazed that Cordner's claims have been given the importance it has with the media to the point of an editorial in today's newspapers (Express editorial). But there are many holes in Cordner's story," he said.

The Express was able to verify that Cordner's doctorate was purchased from a diploma mill.

In all his documents, he refers to himself as Dr Mervyn Cordner. However, the Express learnt that Rochville University sells degrees, diplomas and doctorates for a fee. The Rochville University website does not offer any telephone numbers for contacting it. An email sent by the Express requesting verification of Cordner's doctorate generated a response from "Affordable Degrees."

Warner said that he has asked Heerah to prepare a report on Cordner and the NFSIU to be delivered to him by midday today.

Williams told the Express yesterday that he never supported the idea of reviving the Flying Squad from the word "go". He said he had no dealing with Cordner nor did he have a single meeting with anyone.

Cordner had told the Express that he had been engaged in several operations, one titled "Operation Axala" which involved police officers and members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force.

Contrary to Cordner's claims that police officers were involved in several operations which he undertook, Williams said no such activity took place.

General of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, Kenrick Maharaj, also denied any discussions with Cordner or use of his team. He said no request was made for any men nor any authorisation given to support any operation of the alleged NFSIU. He maintained that he has no knowledge of the unit's operations.

Cordner has submitted a claim to the Ministry of National Security for $24 million which he said was incurred over the six-month period—from July to December— during which the unit allegedly operated.

Cordner said he has more documented proof of the Ministry's complicity in the NFSIU but will use it as a base to pursue legal proceedings against Warner for breach of contract with the hope of a $180 million settlement.

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