Over the last few months, a lot has been written about the impact of the new taxation regime on the gaming houses in Trinidad and Tobago.
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Piparo 15 years after: Living in Dole’s shadow
Fifteen years after notorious crime lord Dole Chadee (Nankissoon Boodram) and his murderous gang of eight were hanged, the quiet village of Piparo still recoils in fear by just the mention of his name. Chadee, who ran his drug empire from a sprawling mansion on 100 acres of state land was caught in a murder conspiracy and convicted on the testimony of one of his trusted henchmen, Levi Morris, in 1996.
Two weeks ago, a Guardian team visited the community, and came across Chadee’s younger son, Shiva Boodram, 34, who spoke about his father first time. “That was my father’s era. It is a different time now. He did what he had to do to make money and whatever stigma there was or there still is, I can say it has not been transferred to us.” Boodram, was at a farm his father previously operated rearing chicken and sheep. Boodram said he left his career in the insurance industry to take over the operations at the farm.
On June 4, 1999, Chadee, 47, walked to the gallows. He was never convicted on drug charges. However, he was found guilty of ordering the murders of Hamilton Baboolal, his sister, Monica and their parents. Two children, Osmond and Sumatee Baboolal survived the attack. Osmond later turned to a life of drugs. Eight of Chadee’s followers, including his key lieutenant Joey Ramiah, were also sent to the gallows in June 1999.
Boodram still believes that his father was innocent and had nothing to do with the Baboolal’s killings. “Real reasons exist as to why the Baboolal family was killed. The truth is yet to be told. Ramiah and they worked for my dad, but how it went down, it was never like that.”
He said he believed that his father had a falling out with the Baboolals and may have made threats to kidnap or ordered them to be beaten but not killed.
Joey Ramiah and that gang had liked to kill. I believe that when somebody close to you want to impress you, they will do anything to impress.” Amin Baksh, 82, who lives a stone’s throw away from Chadee’s Hindu temple, said she knew him very well. She said her daughter worked as a maid for Chadee eventually bearing him a daughter. One of her sons was employed as one of Chadee’s drivers.
“Dole Chadee was a very good man. He gave everybody money. One time he gave me a bucket full of money in coins. It worked up to be about $400 and I could have buy anything I wanted with that,” Baksh said. She, however, admitted that once someone crossed him, he dealt with them accordingly, “He would behave very badly. He would quarrel, fight and would want to shoot. I remember clearly one day something happened and he chopped someone very badly. They were washing down the blood from the road.”
She added that people were afraid of him but claimed that she did not know why. “Dole used to sell drugs, but you know, when children get big you can’t rule them anymore.”
Chadee was known as the king of cocaine in T&T at that time, just as Colombian Pablo Escobar, who was a notorious and wealthy Colombian drug lord. Escobar is regarded as one of the wealthiest criminals in history, with an estimated net worth of US$30 billion by the early 1990s. He was killed in December 1993 by Colombian security forces in Medellin.
It was said that Chadee and Escobar carried similar traits in the underworld and were believed to be connected in one way or the other. Boodram said growing up he never knew his father to be involved in drugs and killings, but as a young boy would always wonder how his dad had so much of money.
“I remember asking him when I was six years old, ‘Daddy how come you have so much money’ and he told me that when he go to bed at night, he would pray and ask God for money and when he got up in the morning he would get the money,” Boodram said laughingly. “If he was into anything he did not do or say anything around us. I never see the ship load of drugs, the underground world, the execution house, the piranhas and I have never seen him throw acid on anyone.”
Some villagers in Piparo, however, strongly believe that Dole Chadee’s ‘legacy’ still lives on. Too scared to elaborate, villagers assured that they knew what they were referring to and why. Boodram, however, assured that the past was his father’s past. “Seeing him in the way he interacted with people I think that nobody had a fear for him. I have heard people refer to him as a monster but at the end of the day he helped the community by funding funerals and sending children to school.”
He said his father was a businessman, who never liked conflict or looked for enemies. Boodram said his father championed the cause for a proper education and ensured that his children were educated. He said that whenever they strayed from the right path, they would often get lectures from him.
“He was more like a psychologist to us. He never spoke about his past. His mantra to us was study, study, study, don’t ever stop studying. My father was very educated as well. He also spoke broken Spanish. I remember his library full of law and history books. He knew it from the inside, out.”
In his last few moments, Boodram said, his father was very calm. He said during a visit with him, Chadee insisted that he continue with his studies and ensured that he took care of his sheep, goat and chickens. He was also coaxed into writing several thank you letters on behalf of his father to recipients he chose not to disclose.
“At first when they hanged my dad I was very angry. Then confused and sad. However, after years I have now gotten over it and moved on. At that time there was no one to counsel you...that’s why I needed my family around and moved back here to live from London.”
Boodram said his objective is to help people; to try and provide employment for his villagers on his farms.
“First of all, I can’t just give words of encouragement, but actions. If anyone want assistance I will help them out. It will be charity from my heart. I have a good mind.” Boodram sent a message to the government, to make use of all the lands that were seized after his father was incarcerated, “in such a way that it would provide employment and development of the Piparo community.”
One of the state lands seized housed Dole Chadee's mansion, where he lived. That house has since been transformed into a $30 million Piparo Empowerment Centre. It serves as a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts.