The “ultimate big fish’’ in illegal quarrying in this country is being monitored by law enforcement but there are challenges in arresting the person, National Security Minister Gary Griffith said yesterday.
Griffith was speaking on the debate of The Miscellaneous Provisions (Proceeds of Crime, Anti-Terrorism, Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago) (No. 2) Bill, 2014 at the Senate sitting yesterday.
He spoke of the need for the legislation, which he said would aid law enforcement in tackling money laundering.
“There is a certain individual, he was not even semi-skilled, I wouldn’t want to state the position he was in, and he turned away from doing that at a minimum wage and through illegal quarrying he is the ultimate big fish in crime in this country and he is being monitored through the intelligence agencies,” he said.
“This (legislation) becomes an avenue to go after these individuals because they have put their funds into certain areas within the criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies that makes it difficult for us to get that individual,” Griffith added.
“This can very well be considered catching the big fish bill because this can be an ideal avenue for us to go after those individuals that hold such a position because they have acquired wealth but because of how they have operated it is difficult for them to be apprehended by the law enforcement agencies,” said Griffith.
He said criminals need to be prevented from accessing funds, assets and other benefits that fuel their illegitimate criminal activities.
Griffith reiterated that authorities will not negotiate with criminals but aim to disrupt the source of funding and access to ill gotten gains as far and wide as possible.
He said the legislation will also be an additional mechanism for cracking down on illegal quarrying, fuel bunkering, hunting and other environmental crimes.
$1 Billion in shady transactions
Speaking right after Griffith, Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi said there are current laws in this country that allow for the big fishes to be caught.
He noted that the country has a record of close to $1 billion of suspicious transactions.
“This country has the ability to operationalise law right now to cause serious big fishes to be caught,” he said.
He pointed out that illegal quarrying was exposed by the Express newspaper in a series of reports and it was easier to apprehend the criminals through the Environmental Management Authority and the Minerals Act.
Al-Rawi said Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine has not been able to stand up and say why there have been to charges with respect to illegal quarrying.
“My role is not to charge people sir, my role is not to lock up people and take them to court and so on...the role of the Ministry of Energy is to regulate as per the Minerals Act,” said Ramnarine.
“Right now we can go forward and demonstrate the ability to lock up people automatically,” Al-Rawi responded.
He said the jails were overflowing with “small fishes” as people are jailed for small quantities of drugs in keeping with the dangerous drugs legislation whilst the big fishes remain uncaught.