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Firearms dealer alleges police brutality
A Chaguanas firearms dealer has testified to being assaulted by police during a raid at his business place in 2004. Towfeek Ali, managing-director of the Firearms Training Institute, made the statement under cross-examination before Justice Devindra Rampersad in the Port-of-Spain High Court on Wednesday.
“I was shoved against a wall, tugged forward and thrown on a chair in my office,” Ali said. In his court filings, Ali claims to have suffered injuries to the shoulder and head.
The raid occurred on December 13, 2004 at the institute’s Montrose, Chaguanas, offices. Ali said at the time, he and his employees were offloading a container containing firearms and ammunition which were legally imported by his company.
Ali, his company and his wife Nyree Alfonso are suing the State and three of the officers who were involved in the raid for malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, trespassing, assault and battery. Alfonso, an attorney, is the chairman of First Citizens.
The couple claims that the some of the officers involved in the raid entered their offices without first providing a search warrant. Ali testified yesterday that during the raid, he went into the building to use the bathroom and was followed by two police officers who demanded that he leave the door open.
He said that on leaving the toilet he heard the officers shout that they had found two guns near the toilet. Ali said he was arrested a short while later when the senior officer on the scene, arrived in his office and showed him two firearms. Ali claimed that the weapons were in the officer’s pocket.
“I did not see the other officers handing him the firearms,” Ali said repeatedly during his cross-examination. In their defence the officers contend that they followed proper police procedure throughout the raid and the weapons were in fact found in Ali’s pants pocket after he left the toilet.
According to court filings, the couple allege that ASP Chandrabhan Maharaj, Insp Mitchell Manswell and PC Clifton Thomas, made malicious representations without reasonable and probable cause which led to Ali being charged with the possession of two illegal firearms. All three officers were assigned to the now disbanded Firearms Interdiction Unit (FIU).
Alfonso, in her testimony on Monday said she arrived at the building with her 20-month-old son, before the raid. She claimed that the officers surrounded her car, pointed guns at her and her son and used “loud and hostile tones” as well as insulting and obscene language.
Ali was found not guilty of the charges by a nine-member jury in the Port-of-Spain Assizes in June 2011 with Justice Hayden St Clair-Douglas, in his summation to the jury, noting several inconsistencies in the officers’ testimony at the trial.
Ali contends that he spent $600,000 for legal representation during his High Court trial as well as during the preliminary inquiry into the charges.
He claims also that prior to the raid and the criminal charges, his company benefitted from contracts and business from several departments of the Ministry of National Security including the T&T Police Service and Defence Force.
He said that since the incident the company has lost out on their regular business due to the damage done to his own reputation and that of the company. Ali estimates the total losses between 2005 and 2008 to be in the vicinity of $2,775,000.
The couple’s legal team include Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes and Fyard Hosein and attorney Rishi Dass. Senior Counsel Ernest Koylass and Israel Khan and attorney Jagdeo Singh are representing the three officers and the State.
The trial continues.
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