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CoP mum on DEA cocaine probe

Thursday, January 23, 2014
Cocaine hidden in juice, soft drink load
Stephen Williams

Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams yesterday refused to comment on the ongoing probe by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and local law enforcement officials into the recent TT$644 million cocaine haul in the United States. 



Asked about the state of the status of the collaborative effort during the weekly police press briefing, Williams said:  “I am not in a position to comment on that investigation. As soon as I am in a position I will reveal to the media all I can reveal. At this point in time I am not in a position to comment on that investigation.” Pressed further, he added: “I cannot comment at all on that at this time.” He also  made it clear that no official from the Police Service had made any comment on the investigation.



Asked about security for containers at the country’s ports, Williams said: “The TTPS continues to make the clear position it is critical that we have an improved system of securing and it is not limited to legal port of entires. I have made recommendations on how we can secure our borders and publicly stated those at other forums.”


Williams’s comments came even as further T&T Guardian investigations yesterday revealed that the illegal cargo initially seized by United States Customs and Border Protection officers was hidden among not only 1,600 cases of Trinidad Juices (800 each of orange and grapefruit) but also 700 cases of Apple J soft drinks. In all, 2,300 cases of juices and soft drinks were used to hide the over 700 tins of juices which stored the cocaine.


A search for the companies behind the shipment also revealed not only defunct entities but fictitious people behind them as well and people on both sides assisting in a well organised trans-national drug ring. SM Jaleel has maintained it played no part in shipping of the drugs and said on Tuesday an internal examination had showed the labels on the cans were fake.


Contacted on the matter yesterday, Hayden Charles, executive director of  Joseph Charles Bottling Works and Transport Limited, whose company manufacturers Apple J, an award-winning brand, said it was the first time he was hearing of his products being found in the container. “This is news to me. I am surprised by this,” Charles said. He said, however, that the soft drinks could have ended up in the container via several means and were not necessarily bought directly from the company.


Saying the Christmas season was normally very hectic, Charles added: “During that time we have quite a number of wholesalers coming to buy goods and one wholesaler could easily buy that number of cases and more.” He said he believed it would be easier to purchase the cases as wholesalers rather than directly from the company as that would make it more difficult to pick up a paper trail. He said it was unfortunate that SM Jaleel had been forced to defend its good name as “it could happen to anyone.”



…Customs clerk acts as broker



An empty 20-foot container was sourced, via a broker, who then contacted local transport company, Basics Transport Limited, to transport it to be stuffed and carry it to the Port of Port-of-Spain on behalf of Caribbean Sea Works Ltd, the T&T Guardian learned yesterday. Director of Basics Transport Ltd, Apollo Arjoon, said for the past three years he had been doing work for Caribbean Sea Works Ltd through a broker but maintained that during that time he did not know the owner or directors of the company.


A source close to the Customs and Excise Division yesterday said it was not a broker, however, but rather a customs clerk holding the rank of either a grade two or three who had been directly signing documents for Caribbean Sea Works Ltd. The source said the clerk would ensure documents could go through easily without being flagged. A former employee of Caribbean Sea Works Ltd, who did not want to be identified, said yesterday the company was into marine construction and had been defunct for years.


The former employee said three years before O’Sullivan died a man began doing work for the company. “He basically kept to himself and no one really knew anything about him. What is interesting in this whole thing is that only very few people working at the company would know about the name Caribbean Sea Works because that was the name the owner used to do business abroad and that was not on many occasions,” he said.


“In most instances he used the name Sea Works Ltd as he did many local projects, including for the government at the time, like building jetties,” the former employee added. The shipment was sent to a trading company in Virginia which seems to exist on paper only and to a consignee who also appears to have been a “ghost.”


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