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There was heightened police activity at the Citrus Growers Association yesterday, after bandits again raided the compound, stole juice and soft drinks, then engaged in a shoot-out with security guards when they returned to collect some of the loot they had stashed on the roof of one of the buildings on the compound.
Police, who had earlier reported to the Eastern Main Road, Laventille, compound to investigate an overnight robbery, were again called to the compound around 1.30 pm after five bandits engaged in a shoot-out with CGA security just after 1 pm. The men reportedly had returned to the compound to collect the rest of the items they had stolen overnight. This, according to the police, included 110 cases of grapefruit juice, 70 cases of orange juice and 13 cases of Chubby.
But when the bandits returned for the rest of the loot yesterday, there was more security on the compound, they having been on alert because of the investigation into the theft. The bandits reportedly opened fire on the guards and kept them pinned down for over five minutes before a joint police and army response unit arrived and scared them off. Earlier, when staff arrived at work yesterday morning they found cases of three products missing. The stolen product was said to be worth approximately $20,000.
Police were called to the compound to investigate soon after, and left after wrapping up their inquiries. However, at 1.30 pm, members of the Inter-Agency Task Force, Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit, Guard and Emergency Branch and Besson Street police swooped down on the factory again after being called in following the shoot-out between the bandits and the security guards. The media, meanwhile, had been informed that there was a “raid” at the factory.
When the media arrived on the scene, police were seen searching the vehicles leaving the compound. There were also cases of the stolen items on the roof of on the buildings on the compound, which borders part of Picton, Laventille. Slippers, left behind by the bandits, who escaped, were also visible near the stolen products. A resident who lives close by said they heard gunshots shortly after 1 pm, but said they were unaware of what had happened.
The incident came even as members of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were continuing their local 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 more than 700 cans of Trinidad Juice, manufactured by the CGA, a subsidiary of SM Jaleel.
The company has distanced itself from any involvement in the cocaine find, but has reported that before the drug find, cases of juices had been stolen on several occasions. However, security was reportedly beefed up at all branches of company in the wake of the incident. In a statement last evening, SM Jaleel confirmed the incident and thanked the IATF, saying their response quickly ended what was a tense and extremely frightening situation for the Allied Security guards.