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DEA close to closing $.6b cocaine case

Friday, January 24, 2014

The United States Department of Justice yesterday issued a diplomatic note to T&T’s Foreign Affairs Ministry for provisional warrants to be issued for three suspects described as “businessmen.” This came as investigators, including members of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), continued their probe into the seizure in Virginia of an estimated $644 million worth of high-grade cocaine concealed in fruit juice cans originating from T&T. The drug was seized by US Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of Norfolk, Virginia, on December 20. The shipment was smuggled in over 700 cans of Trinidad juices, manufactured by the Citrus Growers Association, a subsidiary of SM Jaleel. Sources said up to late yesterday the note was still at the Foreign Affairs Ministry but it was to be forwarded to the Central Authority which falls under the ministry of the Attorney General. They said even before the note was dispatched from the US Government, it had alerted T&T authorities about the warrants.


Former head of the authority, attorney David West, yesterday said the issuing of provisional warrants was done from one central authority to another but the process could also be done through the Foreign Affairs Ministry. He explained: “If you want to err on the side of caution and to go through all the channels, the provisional warrant can be sent to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, then to the Attorney General’s office and then to the Central Authority and from there transferred to officers to make the necessary arrest. “It could also be done directly from one authority to the other. 
“However, I would not read into it going to the Foreign Affairs Ministry as opposed to directly from authority to authority because it really does not matter either way.” He said once the process had been completed, an arrest was immediate, adding: “There is no delay or there should not be any delay of any sort because this is treated as a matter of urgency.” The diplomatic note, West added, must contain details of the suspects, including their names, addresses and dates of birth. “The diplomatic note would basically read ‘the US Government hereby requests the provisional warrant with a view to extradition of ... (names of suspects).’”


Defunct company revived 
Documentation on Caribbean Sea Works Ltd shows that even after the company became defunct when its owner John Michael O’Sullivan died in 2008 it remained in operation as certificates of continuance were repeatedly applied for at the Companies Registry Department of the Legal Affairs Ministry. The company’s name was then allegedly used in a trans-national drug-smuggling operation. The T&T Gazette said O’Sullivan died on October 28, 2008 and his will was probated on January 5, 2009. His wife, Brigitta, was named as the sole executrix of the will. Documents obtained by the T&T Guardian from the registry and dated December 13, 2012 show the company’s registration number was C-1419 (C). They also named Doolin Ragoonath Mahabir as the only “authorised officer” of the company. The document also named Malcolm Browne, of 128, Milford Road, Scarborough, and Brigitta O’Sullivan, of 107, Windy Ridge, Goodwood Park, Glencoe, as the directors. 


But a former company employee said Browne also died and soon after her husband’s death Brigitta returned to Germany as she had no interest in running the company. The document bore only the signature of Ragoonath-Mahabir. It listed the occupation of Brigitta as “proprietress”, while there was none for Browne. Attempts, via TSTT’s directory enquiries, to get a phone number for Ragoonath-Mahabir were unsuccessful as the number was blocked. In reply to a request for an address, the T&T Guardian was told the address also was blocked. Notices of change of secretary showed a year before O’Sullivan died, Browne was appointed company secretary on July 26, 2007. The notice said Victor Jattan, of 53, Lyndon Street, Curepe, whose occupation was listed as proprietor, ceased to be the secretary just before O’Sullivan died.


Where is Victor Jattan?
The name Victor Jattan appeared throughout the documents. He was named as the company secretary and his address was given as 53 Lyndon Street, Curepe. When the T&T Guardian visited the address yesterday, it was a ground-floor apartment. No one answered despite several calls. Neighbours described Jattan as “always keeping to himself and hardly interacting with anyone.”
They confirmed he worked at Caribbean Sea Works Ltd. Marine equipment, they added, was outside the apartment, including two boat fender guards. They said Jattan had not been seen in a long time and they had been told he was in Miami at one point. In 1995, former House Speaker Occah Seepaul accused Jattan of defrauding her of $17,000. 


Extradition from T&T

Under the Extradition Act, T&T may extradite a fugitive to a requesting country if it is a Commonwealth territory, or a treaty has been concluded and the Attorney General has declared that the act applies to that country. T&T is party to a bilateral extradition treaty with the US. Requests for extradition of a fugitive must be received through the diplomatic channel. Requests for the provisional arrest (in urgent cases) may be received through diplomatic channels, Interpol or a prescribed channel. Once received by the Attorney General, these requests and their supporting documents are examined by counsel in the Central Authority to ensure they are complete and conform with the act and, if applicable, the relevant treaty. The documentation is then sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who will represent the requesting country in the extradition proceedings. This includes obtaining the arrest warrant from a magistrate and taking part in the extradition hearing. At the extradition hearing, the magistrate must be satisfied that the evidence shows conduct that amounts to an extraditable offence and would warrant a trial if the offence had been committed in T&T. If so, and if committal is not prohibited by the Extradition Act, the magistrate will commit the fugitive to custody to await a warrant issued by the Attorney General for his return. The act gives the AG the authority to order the return of the fugitive to the territory seeking the extradition.


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