“Whoever took his life has to pay and they will pay very soon.”
Those were the words of a man said to be like a grandfather to nine-year-old Cyon Paul during his funeral yesterday.
Vice-president of Human Resources at SM Jaleel, Roger Berkeley, said yesterday that the negative publicity being generated from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s probe of the recent $644 million cocaine seizure in the United States has impacted heavily on the psyche of the company’s owners and employees. “We have 2,000 employees throughout the region and their lives and livelihoods depend on the success of the business...that’s one aspect of it,” he said yesterday, during the Morning Panchayat Show on 106.5FM. “The other aspect that is being missed is that SM Jaleel is a victim — behind the corporate entity and behind all of the products and so on, there are human beings. SM Jaleel is not just the name of the company but it is also the name of the founder of the company and his family’s reputation. “We are challenged in defending the integrity of our employees, the integrity of our shareholders and the stakeholders of the organisation.”
The DEA is currently in the country wrapping up loose ends in its investigation of the drug haul, which was made at the Port of Norfolk in Virginia on December 20. The illegal drugs, which left the Port of Port-of-Spain on November 17 in a 20-foot container, were hidden in more than 700 tins of Trinidad Juice cans. SM Jaleel has distanced itself from the shipment, noting that it does not ship from the Port of Port-of-Spain and that the labels used on the tins were also fake. However, it has not escaped attention and criticism from the public as speculation continues about who might be the big fish behind the shipment. Berkeley also said he supported National Security Minister Gary Griffith’s decision to prevent the release of sensitive information on the investigation to the local media from the local law enforcement officers assisting the DEA. However, he said the company wants the probe to be completed, the public to know the truth and the company’s name cleared.
“SM Jaleel’s position is that the investigation needs to take place quickly and the information needs to be disseminated to the public,” he said.
“We understand the need for some level of sensitivity in terms of the information that is being gathered. At the end of the day, the company is being portrayed in a negative light and the name of SM Jaleel needs to cleared as quickly as possible.” Earlier this week, Griffith also said he was going after the “big fish” involved in the ongoing investigations. Responding to those claims, SM Jaleel export/import manager Robert Lim Choy said: “I think the main thing right now is that a lot of people are really frustrated with the ‘little fish, big fish’ scenario. “Before we were fully cleared they just wanted someone to fall, the bigger the someone the better. We (T&T) had a history in the past of not following through fully as a country in terms of prosecuting individuals.” He confirmed that the company had not been approached by the DEA to assist in the investigations.