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Griffith: Govt, DEA working closely
National Security Minister Gary Griffith says investigations into the multi-million dollar drug bust in Norfolk, Virgina last month are “proceeding at a pace.” In a telephone interview yesterday, Griffith said he had informed all investigators, both local and international, that information and findings from the investigation were strictly on a “need-to-know basis.” “Right now, no one in the Government, no one in my Ministry, not even I, need to know,” he said.
He also slammed what he described as “totally inaccurate reports” in the media following the big cocaine bust last month. Since reports first surfaced of the December 20 haul and the shipment was traced back to Trinidad, Griffith said there have been “lots of inaccuracies” in the local media. “The investigation is proceeding at a pace. Local intelligence is working closely with the US officials and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency),” Griffith said.
But even after saying that, Griffith said he could not confirm that DEA agents were in the country. “I cannot make an official statement about that,” he said. Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran was also reported as saying that no extradition request had been made by the United States for anyone in connection with the $644 million drug find.
Last month, US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officers seized 732 pounds of cocaine concealed in cans bearing the labels of Trinidad Orange and Grapefruit Juices at the Port of Norfolk in Virginia, United States. The cocaine had a street value of over US$100 million and was reported as the largest such drug find in Port of Norfolk’s history. The container, port officials said then, was bound for New York.
Local manufacturer SM Jaleel, which produces the juice cans, released several statements distancing the company from the find and has since launched its own internal investigations. Griffith was also critical of the idea that the T&T brand was at risk. He said the business sector often offers “excellent recommendations and constructive criticism,” but not in this matter.
“What I have noticed, however, is that certain others—thankfully only a handful—who were silent for years prior to May 2010, and there was not a sound from them when T&T on a whole was at risk, but now they are stating that brand T&T is at risk.
Now we are making a major breakthrough by seizing illegal drugs and weapons in abundance and doing a complete refurbishment of our national security apparatus, whilst working hand in hand with our international foreign allies as never seen before. But all of a sudden, certain people have discovered their vocal cords and are demanding results,” he said.
“The criminals were getting away with it, and this affected our reputation even more. This (drug) seizure would indeed hit those involved in the illegal drug trade very hard, and the only people who should be upset are criminals,” Griffith said.