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Port ‘ready to assist investigation’

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

The Port of Port of Spain (PPOS) stands ready to work with any agency that is investigating the shipment of cocaine busted in Norfolk, Virginia, United States.

This was the assurance given yesterday by acting chief executive officer of the port,  Trudy Gill.

Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officers seized 732 pounds of cocaine, with a street value of over TT$644 million, concealed in cans bearing the labels of Trinidad Orange and Grapefruit Juices at the Port of Norfolk in Virginia, United States, on December 20 last year. 

Officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA’s) office in the US arrived in this country yesterday to begin their investigation into the shipment of the illegal drug.

Gill explained to the Express yesterday that Customs and Excise would have to answer as it relates to how the shipment would have been allowed to leave the Port in the first place since Customs is in charge of detection, and not the Port.

“PPOS is a business unit within the Port Authority handling the cargo section. We don’t handle anything that is not approved by Customs, so for any cargo to leave this Port or enter this Port it must be approved by Customs. We house the cargo until it is ready to go onto the vessel, we house the cargo until the consignee is ready to collect it,” she said.

“We have an electronic system in relation to the cargo so we would have information in our system. The Port is here to assist in any way that we can with any information that we would have to any agency that may be investigating this,” she said.

When asked if the port had been contacted on assisting with the investigation, she said no one had contacted her. 

“I don’t know if they have contacted the general manager of the port,” she said. That person, Sharon Mark,  was out of the office yesterday. 

Asked whether scanners have been installed at the port, Gill said not yet but added they should be installed within the first quarter of 2014. That, Gill said, is on track. 

“The scanners are here, we are waiting on some certificates and clearances to install,” she said. 

Some of the biggest drug busts in Trinidad

* Cocaine valued at $700 million was found on Monos Island in August 2005 during a drug bust.

The cocaine, weighing 1,749 kg, was found along with seven firearms: two rifles, three pistols , one revolver, one sub-machine gun, and 247 rounds of assorted ammunition.

 

* A multi-million-dollar drug bust in August, 2007 in the Gulf of Paria netted 700 kg of marijuana  found in 32 crocus bags. 

 

* In September 2011, 

compressed marijuana valued at more than $30 million was found concealed in a refrigerated 

container at the Point Lisas Port. 

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