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Police are investigating a car theft syndicate believed to be responsible for two incidents last weekend, in which four vehicles were stolen from Toyota (T&T) Ltd’s Barataria compound. Four suspects, three of whom are employees of the company, remained detained at the Morvant Police Station up to late yesterday, where they were being interrogated over the incidents, which occurred between Friday night and early Sunday morning. When staff arrived at work on Saturday, they realised that two Corollas, which had been left by their owners to be serviced, were missing.
Police from the North Eastern Division Task Force, led by Insp Roger Alexander, were contacted. After interviewing several senior staff members and viewing CCTV cameras at the compound, investigators detained the three employees for questioning. Hours later, the same group of investigators were summoned a second time. Police said shortly after 2 am, three armed men scaled the perimeter fence and attacked and hog-tied a security guard before breaking into the company’s service department. Investigators said the suspects stole over a dozen keys to vehicles which had been left for servicing over the weekend. They then escaped in two of the vehicles, a Hilux pick-up truck and a Prado SUV.
Both were equipped with GPS tracking, however, and the owners were immediately notified their vehicles were being used. Police said the vehicles were tracked to Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, before the owners used the GPS devices to shut down and immobilise them. By the time police arrived, they were only able to apprehend one of the drivers. The other escaped on foot. The two cars that were stolen first had not been found up to late yesterday. Sgt Cornelius Samuel and Cpl Sunil Bharath are continuing investigations.
Contacted yesterday, Toyota’s managing director, Andre Baptiste, said security measures had been beefed up since the thefts.
“At this stage we are taking all the steps necessary to avoid a reoccurrence of what transpired on Friday and Saturday. We wish to assure the public that Toyota (T&T) Ltd has taken on additional security to ensure that in this current environment, everyone and everything on our compound is safe,” Baptiste said.
While he confirmed that three of the suspects were employed with the company, Baptiste said he did not to want to comment further as it might affect the investigation.
A source close to the investigation said investigators began unravelling the scale and scope of the car-theft gang while questioning the four suspects. “It is much bigger than we first thought. There will definitely be more arrests in connection with these incidents,” the source said. Investigators believe the same group is also behind several car thefts at car parks in east and central Trinidad late last year. The source said investigators believed the group was led by a businessman who operated a foreign-used car dealership who was planning to use the stolen vehicles for parts or to export them to other Caribbean countries. Investigators said the arrest of the businessman was imminent.