The 45-year-old son of a senior government minister has refused to comment on the case law enforcement authorities in the United States are building against him.Contacted in Miami on Friday for a comment on the matter, he said, "I have no interest in speaking with you...but have a good day."He then hung up.Another call to the residence went unanswered.
The circumstances surrounding the case are cloaked in secrecy and sources have said both the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) are dealing with it through a sealed indictment. Such a seal, sources say, can remain intact for years, once investigations are ongoing.
Under a sealed indictment, no information about the case goes public until the prosecution is satisfied all the evidence to support the allegations against the implicated party has been gathered to take before the courts. With the indictment being sealed, public databases–such as the Public Access to Courts Electronic Records (PACER) in the US–will not record or register the case in its judicial database.
PACER is provided by the federal judiciary in keeping with its commitment to providing public access to court information via a centralised service.
The seal also means the public does not have access to documents or information, even about such basic facts as the identities of the prosecution, judge, defendants or evidence to be led and the charges. Sources say investigators are pursuing money laundering, tax evasion and fraud convictions.The minister's son, sources say, remains under house arrest while the investigators gather their evidence.
Calls to the US Embassy, the United States Department of Justice and the FBI all yielded the same response: "We decline to comment."
No comment from PM
It was only last week that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, during a tour of police stations, said she was seeking answers about the exclusive Sunday Guardian report about the case against the minister's son being under a sealed indictment.Persad-Bissessar said then: "I would be very concerned about anybody's son and indeed if it was one of my ministers."
She said, however, that she had "no information on any minister's son who is in any circumstances abroad. I have no such information, advice or knowledge. I have asked." ����Further checks by Sunday Guardian as to the entities which Persad-Bissessar questioned went unanswered.Special adviser for public engagements at the Office of the Prime Minister Lisa Ghany when contacted and asked specifically whom Persad-Bissessar spoke to, asked that the questions be e-mailed.
Sunday Guardian complied and e-mailed the questions on Wednesday. Contacted on Friday, Ghany said, "I am not at liberty to comment on those questions."Ambassador to the United States Dr Neil Parsan also asked that the questions be e-mailed. Sunday Guardian again complied.
In an e-mailed response, Parsan said, "No communication from US authorities has been received by the TT Embassy, Washington DC, and the Consulates in New York and Miami." He said it was normal procedure that the Embassy in Washington be informed of TT nationals who were arrested and charged in the USA, but this usually occurred when those individuals are to be deported.
"The Embassy is generally in receipt of full documentation re persons detained when deportation proceedings have been initiated. Trinidad and Tobago nationals are encouraged to contact the Embassy or Consulates via telephone or e-mail in like matters.
"No such communication has occurred in this matter," he said.Asked specifically whether the Prime Minister or any government official had contacted him to make inquiries into the matter, or whether he (Parsan) himself attempted to contact the IRS, FBI, or even the minister's son after the article appeared, Parsan failed to give a response.
Questions to the PM
Questions posed bySunday Guardian to the PM:
1) Has the Prime Minister, officially or otherwise, requested information from the US, as it pertains to reports of a minister's son being held in the US under a secret indictment? If yes, when was such request made?
2) Has the PM been contacted by any US governmental official/agency with regards to a minister's son being held in the US under a secret indictment?
3) Has the PM attempted to contact either the FBI or IRS on reports that a minister's son is being held in the US under a secret indictment?
4) Following reports that (names called) have been arrested and are assisting officers with investigations in the US, has the PM made any contact with the men to ascertain their welfare/status?