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SM Jaleel: We did not export cocaine
SM Jaleel & Co Ltd can prove that the container of canned juices containing US$100 million worth of cocaine shipped from Trinidad to Norfolk, Virgina, was not exported by them. In a statement on its Web site yesterday, the South Oropouche-based company stated: “ExportTT has confirmed that SM Jaleel did not export the container of juices with cocaine to the US.”
The company, which claimed it is being targeted by criminals in the drug trade, is now demanding answers. “Who shipped it? Why is it a secret?” The company said, “The public needs to be informed.” The container was seized on December 20, but this was only revealed to the US media by US Customs and Border Protection officials on Thursday. The cocaine was concealed in 700 cans found in the 20-foot container, destined for New York.
It appeared to be manufactured from Citrus Growers Association, a subsidiary of SM Jaleel. US officials described it as the largest drug bust in the history of the Port of Norfolk. In an online statement yesterday, SM Jaleel stated: “From all accounts, the shipment was not exclusively juice and was a consolidated container with other products from Trinidad not associated with SM Jaleel.
“We have been reliably informed that the container in question was shipped from Port-of-Spain to Norfolk, Virginia. SM Jaleel & Co Ltd ships to the USA with Seaboard Marine from Point Lisas port to Brooklyn,” the company said. The company stated that the juice product was not original and had been tampered with. “Our products are being targeted since we are this country’s number one non-oil/petrochemical exporter and because our brands are well known and respected.”
TTMA wants to help protect manufacturers from drug smugglers
In a press release yesterday, the T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) said it wants to work with the local authorities to find a strategy to protect local manufacturers from drug smugglers.
“As a means of controlling the scourge of drug trafficking and to protect the name of law-abiding manufacturers, the TTMA would like to work with the Ministry of Trade and Industry as well as the Comptroller of Customs and Excise, Shipping Association and freight forwarders to determine how best to address the issue of consolidated shipments not originating from a manufacturer.
“Local manufacturers are all vulnerable if this practice is not stopped. The TTMA is confident that this initiative will go a long way to preventing the kinds of instances which can hurt not only a local manufacturers, but the good name of all of T&T. The TTMA also urged the media to be fair in its reporting. “Newspaper reports have not identified who shipped the container, on which shipping line it was carried, nor whom the container was shipped to. Balanced reporting demands that these questions be asked and answered,” it stated.
This is the second time in two months that SM Jaleel-labelled products have been the subject of a drug investigation. On December 5, Royal Navy veteran Joromie Lewis, 33, of Hampshire, died after drinking a cocaine-tainted 20-oz Pear D drink. SM Jaleel has denied involvement in any of the incidents. According to a CNC3 report last night, DEA officers have arrived in Trinidad to investigate the drug bust. They are zeroing in on a key person in T&T, described as a “drug kingpin,” the report stated.
National Security Minister Gary Griffith in a release yesterday, said the drug find was a collaborative effort between local law enforcement agencies and the international counterparts.