After hours of continuous searching at the Port of Point Lisas, police seized yet another 40-foot container of high grade Arizona marijuana on Thursday evening. Customs and Excise officers said the haul had a street value of $7.4 million. But in a news release late yesterday the Police Service Public Affairs Unit quoted the street value as $30 million. The release said the value had been confirmed by an "expert in the field of narcotics." But Customs communications manager, Alicia Charles, said yesterday Customs and Excise worked out the figure by calculating a kilo of marijuana to be approximately $8,000. She said the officers found 38 bags of marijuana weighing more than 921 kilos.
She said the seizure was part of an ongoing joint operation between the Customs and Excise Division and Pt Lisas Port security which started at the beginning of the year. Containers that came into the port which fitted a particular profile were singled out for inspection, she noted. A prominent businessman of central Trinidad, to whom the container had been assigned, was said to be assisting police with inquiries up to late yesterday. Thursday's seizure was the fourth major drug bust at the port within six months. Sources said it was not the first time a container of drugs assigned to that businessman was seized by law enforcement officers.
Investigators said around 5.55 pm a team of officers from the Customs and Excise Department, Plipdeco Police, Criminal Intelligence Unit, Drug Enforcement Agency and the Organised Crime, Narcotics and Firearms Bureau, as well as the Couva Police, led by Supt Johnny Abraham and ASP Corbette, searched the Point Lisas port. It is alleged that 38 bags of compressed marijuana, amounting to 921 kilogrammes, were found stashed among frozen chicken parts. The marijuana, believed to have been brought in from the United States, was wrapped in plastic and tucked into white crocus bags.
Chairman of the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation Limited (Plipdeco), Ian Atherly, yesterday commended the officers for their work. He said the team worked all day in the sun and rain to make the bust, which was co-ordinated after intelligence. "It was a joint exercise between Plipdeco security, Customs and various other agencies. They searched 32 containers. The container was consigned to a business person in T&T," Atherly revealed. He added that the consignment of marijuana was believed to have been transported from Jamaica.
"It was stacked in crocus bags and was hidden among frozen chicken parts, in packages," he confirmed.
Making reference to the other drug finds on the port, Atherly said: "This is due to ongoing operations that are taking place by the authorities. These exercises have been going on even before the state of emergency was called. "I will hope this kind of find will boost the confidence of the general public that the authorities are doing their best to ensure that T&T is a better place." On March 10 this year, police officers of the North Eastern Division Task Force seized more than $12 million in marijuana at the port. The drugs were stacked in a 40-foot container, filled with pressure washers. The drugs weighed close to 300 kilogrammes.
Investigators said that container, which left Jamaica on February 25, arrived at the Port of Port-of-Spain on March 1 and was later transferred to the Point Lisas Port on March 4. They were alerted by port officials who became suspicious after noticing the seal was tampered with. A party of officers, led by Sergeant Roger Alexander, and including Corporal Sunil Bharath, Police Constables Gordon Lezama and Celestine, assisted by members of the Tactical Response Unit, moved in and carried out the search. Two days later, officers of the Customs and Excise Department also discovered the seal of another container tampered with. When they checked, they discovered more than $30 million worth of compressed marijuana hidden in several containers. That consignment also was intransit from Jamaica and contained approximately 800 kilogrammes of compressed marijuana.