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Obama envoy: Dana’s hit ordered by foreign drug cartel

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Dana Seetahal Murder
Flashback: United States Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield, second from right, chats with Inspector Matthew Ovid, left, head of the Canine Unit, at the Piarco International Airport during his visit to T&T in April, where he attended the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police Conference at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain. With them are Keith Gilges political chief, right, and James Story, director of International Western Hemisphere Programmes. PHOTO COURTESY US EMBASSY, PORT-OF-SPAIN

Special state prosecutor Dana Seetahal was murdered by a trans-national drug organisation with operations in T&T, says the United States Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield. Speaking from Washington, DC, in a teleconference with Caribbean journalists yesterday, Ambassador Brownfield said: “Those in Trinidad would know that I visited your country two months ago and two days after I left there was the brutal murder of Ms Dana Seetahal. She was murdered by a trans-national drug organisation.”



Asked by the T&T Guardian to elaborate on this suggestion, Brownfield, who has responsibility for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said: “I stand by everything I have said. This was clearly not a crime of passion. “It was not a crime of opportunity where someone felt they should steal her handbag and then found they had to shoot her. “This was a well planned and orchestrated hit. “This is not something you plan easily. It is organised crime with an international player that has a crime organisation with presence in T&T.”


On May 4, Seetahal was shot dead just outside the Woodbrook Youth Facility on Hamilton Holder Street as she was on her way to her apartment at One Woodbrook Place after leaving the Ma Pau casino on Ariapita Avenue, Port-of-Spain. Residents reported hearing a volley of gunshots followed by screeching tyres. By the time they contacted police and ran outside to check, they found Seetahal slumped over the steering wheel of her light blue Volkswagen Touareg. She was pronounced dead at the scene.


Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams has publicly said the police knew how and why Seetahal was killed but thus far, 53 days after her killing, no one has been charged with her murder. Yesterday, Brownfield said Seetahal’s murder could not be seen as “just another statistic,” explaining that Seetahal had partnered with the US government on several issues, had been the beneficiary of a Fulbright scholarship from the US government, and was, in his words, “a star, a woman of tremendous courage.”


Reached in England last night National Security Minister Gary Griffith said he preferred not to comment.


Drug, crime problem gowing

Pointing out that there was a correlation between the increase of drugs flowing through the region and the crime and violence on the regional streets, including those of T&T, US Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield said the increased use of the Caribbean as a trans-shipment point for drugs had led to the increase in murders. He predicted that the level of violence was likely to get worse over the next few years, warning that even arms of the State can be challenged. 


He added: “Drug traffickers have to have the firepower to defend their turf. They eventually have to be prepared to take on institutions of the State, whether that is the police, border guards, customs or the Judiciary.” Brownfield said drug cartels were well organised and targeted countries where there were weaknesses, which could range from poorly paid public officials to unprotected borders.


He repeated his statement, reported in the T&T Guardian last month, that the US estimated the quantum of drugs being trans-shipped through the Caribbean to the US had increased, saying it had risen between 2011 and 2013 by over 300 per cent. He listed three major routes in the Caribbean. The first, he said, was through Jamaica and then onto the United States, the second through the Dominican Republic/Haiti and the third through the eastern Caribbean.


Brownfield said the US government was partnering with Caricom governments to help deal with the crime challenge, including the challenge of guns coming into the region from the US. 



He said the reality was that the US had its own laws relating to gun control but had put in place a system where law enforcement could trace a gun in real time, determine if it was in the country illegally and if the ballistics showed it had been used in any other crime. The ambassador admitted that was not enough but said the US was operating in a situation where its legal system was different from those in the region.


On the issue of extra-judicial killings, he said if there was evidence that the police service was involved in such killing in any country, by law, the US would have to discontinue co-operation with the organisation. He explained that was currently the situation with the St Lucian police and that was why co-operation with that country had been suspended. Brownfield said that was unfortunate because the move not only hurt St Lucia but the region as a whole.


Allegations of extra-judicial killings have been made against the T&T Police Service by members of the public after the recent spate of police shootings. So far this year, 29 people have been killed by the police in T&T.


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