Saturday, February 17, 2018

...‘Son of prominent local businessman on the radar’


tracking info: The tracking information for the 20-foot container containing cans with labels of Trinidad Orange and Grapefruit juices, which were seized at the Port of Norfolk in Virginia, United States, on December 20 last year.

Mark Fraser

The United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has targeted several local businessmen of interest in their probe into the $644 million cocaine drug bust in Norfolk, Virginia, USA in December.

Sources close to the investigation said yesterday following a top-level meeting with customs officials and other high-ranking security officials, DEA officials have obtained crucial information pertinent to this drug operation and expect to make an arrest or arrests soon.

“What I can tell you is that there is a prominent businessman’s son who is on their radar,” said a well placed intelligence source.

Sources close to the investigation say the authorities would  be preparing the necessary paperwork to seek the extradition of those involved.

“At least 50 DEA agents arrived in Trinidad yesterday morning, “and more are expected within the coming days,” according to a well placed intelligence source.

Another  intelligence source said the shipping of the cocaine from these shores was planned and well orchestrated, and might have been going on for close to two years under the noses of security officials here.

The Express and TV6 obtained exclusive information on the ID of the container — XINU 1072048 — and were able to track down the movement from the Mediterranean Shipping Company site.

A high-ranking source close to the investigation said, “The container arrived on the Port of Spain port on November 8 and left the port on November 17.”

According to a copy of the  booking information obtained, the shipper was Caribbean Sea Works Limited.

The container was brought to the port by Basics Transport Limited.

The Liberia-registered cargo vessel called Omridium, according to the tracking information on the document, left Trinidad, then travelled to Cristobal, Panama, where it docked for a short while, before continuing on to Freeport, Grand Bahama before its final transhipment point of Norfolk, Virginia.

Custom sources explained that usually two types of containers are used.

There is the Full Cargo Load (FCL), where there is only one consignee, and  there is the Less Cargo Load (LCL),  where there is usually more than one item placed in the container with several consignees.

In this instance the container was  an FCL, but what has baffled investigators and what  has been learnt from well-placed customs and port officials was that the shipment in question did not have a consignee’s name on it. They believe someone in the US would have ensured the container was cleared.

Checks revealed that Caribbean Works Limited has its address at 107 Windy Ridge, Goodwood Park. 

According to a relative, the former director “died more than three years ago and Brigitta O’Sullivan who was later named director has been living in Germany for many years and has not transacted any business for over three years.”

In fact, the relative, who did not want to be named, said “the company was never involved in the shipping business but rather construction up the islands and I want to believe someone could be using the defunct company as a front for their illegal activities.”

Director of Basics Transport Limited, Apollo Arjoon, who spoke via phone explained, “We  would usually collect the empty container for the shipper at the port and drop it outside the port for the shipper to pack, and when the packing is completed, they would return to drop the container back on the port.”

Arjoon said in the two years of doing business with Caribbean Works Limited, “We never went to any other location in this instance or ever  to drop off the empty container for them to pack their goods.”

“No red flags were ever raised of any suspicious activities and he had been doing business with Caribbean Sea Works for close to two years,”stated Arjoon.

He further explained he never had direct contact with the people at Caribbean Sea Works. “It was my dispatcher who would get the call from someone identifying themselves as an official there and they would tell us when they needed a container dropped off or picked up and they would pay in cash,” he said.

Arjoon said port security officials had spoken to his employees and taken statements.

In the coming days several people are expected to be interrogated as the DEA and local law enforcement authorities continue their  investigations.