Acting Assistant Superintendent Vernly Gift is unable to say if the 11 foreign nationals who were arrested on Tuesday by the police were the same group of people who were seen in a recent video entering the country illegally at a beach on the Southern coastline.
Gift, of the Organised Crime and Intelligence Unit, made the comment at yesterday’s weekly media briefing at the Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain. He was responding to questions regarding the video that went viral on Monday which showed people jumping off a fishing boat at a beach in Erin. The people were seen running with their belongings to escape the eyes of onlookers.
Gift said after the video was circulated on social media, officers from the South Western Division conducted an exercise “where several persons were arrested” in the Los Iros area.
A release from the Police Service stated that 11 foreign nationals were arrested, five of whom were Venezuelans, one Guyanese and one Syrian.
Of this figure, seven are males and four females.
Gift said the TTPS and Immigration Division have been ensuring that T&T’s borders are protected and monitored.
Questioned how the Police Service was sure that the people who were arrested were those seen in the video, which was of substandard quality, Gift responded: “If you listened to me carefully I did not say that the TTPS arrested the persons that were seen in the video. What I said was that after the video went viral the police of South Western Division had an exercise and arrested illegal immigrants in the Los Iros area.”
Told by a reporter that there were reports that the persons in the video were the ones arrested by the police, Gift replied, “I am not aware of those reports.”
He said the 11 nationals were still in custody and would soon appear in court.
“The evidence will be there to put before the court as to whether they would be the same persons who would have came off the beach in Los Iros,” Gift said.
Gift also supplied data on the number of firearms and narcotics seized for last and this year.
In 2017, Gift said, the police seized 1,155.10 kilogrammes of marijuana and 225.61 kilogrammes of cocaine.
When compared to November 7 of this year, he said 1,433.72 kilogrammes of marijuana were seized, while the police recovered 326.02 kilogrammes of cocaine.
There were no reports of heroin being found.
Gift said the Police Service seized for this year 842 firearms, compared to last year’s 884, which represents a five per cent decrease.
“We have therefore realised a 24 per cent increase in seizures in marijuana for the current period when compared to the whole of 2017...and a 45 per cent increase in seizures of cocaine when compared to all of 2017,” he said.
Gift admitted that the bulk of the cocaine come from the South American mainland.
Questioned if the influx of Venezuelans into T&T has led to a spike in narcotics within recent times, Gift said the Police Service had no evidence of that.
“What we can tell you is that what we have noticed is that during a period of time in the year (the last quarter of the year) there would be a substantial increase in the drug trade...not just cocaine but other narcotics.”