Two men, who law enforcement officers claim are gang leaders from El Socorro and Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain, were among 23 people who appeared in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates' Court yesterday for gang-related activity. Cedric Burke, 36, a contractor, of Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain, pleaded not guilty when he appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar in the Port-of-Spain Court.Burke was charged with being the leader of a gang at Production Avenue, Sea Lots. He was arrested last Friday by officers of the Port-of-Spain CID, led by Senior Supt Glenn Hackett, while staying at the Hyatt Regency, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
Burke's driver, Keon Bain, 31, of Third Street, Maraval, was also arrested and charged with being a member of the gang. Bain, who was dressed in a blue shirt and tie, when he appeared in court, also pleaded not guilty to the charge. After the charge was read, Burke's lawyer, Kirk Hogan, told the court he was concerned about his client's livelihood. Hogan said Burke was a registered contractor and his company, Burke and Company Ltd, was recently awarded a $300,000 construction contract from the National Commission for Self Help Ltd (NCSHL).
The NCSHL falls under the purview of the Ministry of Community Development. Hogan asked Ayers-Caesar to tender the document, dated August 23, this year, as part of evidence. He also said since his client's arrest, his company had lost one other contract. Both men were remanded into custody under the provisions of the Bail (Amendment) Act which denies a person charged under the recently-passed Anti-Gang Act, bail for a period of 120 days. Bain was represented by a team of attorneys, including Fitzgerald Hinds, Wayne Sturge and Mario Merritt.
They were charged by PC Nobel Smith of the Port-of-Spain CID. Both men's matters were adjourned to September 20. Meanwhile, a 42-year-old San Juan resident also appeared before Ayers-Caesar yesterday charged with being the leader of a gang. Devanand Singh, of El Socorro Extention, San Juan, pleaded not guilty to being a member of the "Devanand Gang" when he appeared in court yesterday.
Singh was represented by Senior Counsel Theodore Guerra. Three other men from the El Socorro area-Donnie Dookie, Ganesh Jagessar and Marvin James-also were charged as being members of the Devanand's gang.
Dookie, who represented himself, said he was a simple farmer. He added: "There are no gangs in El Socorro. The only gangs I know are Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and CEPEP gangs."
All four men were remanded into custody with their matters being adjourned to September 19. Several other alleged gang members from alleged gangs in L'Anse Mitan, Carenage, Cocorite and Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain, also appeared before Ayers-Caesar and were all remanded into custody. Under the Anti-Gang Act, passed in Parliament on May 3, this year, a person convicted of being a gang leader will face a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment, with members of gangs facing a ten-year prison term.
All gang-related matters before Ayers-Caesar were prosecuted by police prosecutors Sgts Azard Ali and Richard Taylor.