A top-secret National Security document which identified several of the men arrested during last week’s anti-gang sweep shows the same men benefiting from lucrative Government contracts.
The document traces the men’s affiliations to companies which received multi-million dollar State contracts over the past 14 years.
This information is contained in a 17-page report compiled by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith back in 2014 when he served as minister of national security.
Griffith yesterday confirmed the authenticity of the report and said he warned the government back then that the fight for State contracts could lead to increased gang warfare.
“I can confirm the document. It is not a secret that I compiled that report back when I was National Security Minister,” he said in a telephone interview.
“It has been a problem for the past 14 years where gangs fight to get their claws into State contracts which is the catalyst for gang wars and increased homicide.”
“As Commissioner of Police, that information has come to my attention that the actions have continued and that they are now using other names to get the contracts and they are the silent profiteers,” he said.
Griffith said as CoP it is not up to him to direct how the State managed its resources but Government needed to be “very careful” about gangs acquiring State contracts and then using the money and profits for illicit activities.
Gangs obtained million dollar contracts through the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP), according to the report, Acquisition of Government contracts by Known Gang Members.
Guardian Media understands that the People’s Partnership (PP) Cabinet of Kamla Persad-Bissessar was provided with the document and warned that the fight for government contracts would lead to increased gang warfare.
“Criminal gang leaders operating along the East-West Corridor continue to use their influence to obtain lucrative contracts from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), as well as under the Unemployment Relief Programme, the Community Environmental Protection and Enhancement Project (Cepep)and the LifeSport Programme,” the document stated.
“Income garnered from these contracts is then used to fund illicit activities such as the purchase of illegal firearms, ammunition and narcotics.”
The document also states that “contracts are also used as a method of ensuring community support through the provision of jobs to residents.”
“The gangs have become increasingly reliant on these contracts over the years and rival each other violently to obtain and retain them,” the document said.
The listing shows contracts obtained by Anthony “Boombay” Boney, Cedric “Burkie” Burke, Ancil “Chemist” Villafana and Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriguez, all of whom were arrested last week.
Boney, according to the document, belonged to the Africa gang operating out of John John, Port of Spain. He obtained seven contracts, including maintenance contracts from CEPEP and was also awarded the million dollar contract for construction of the pavilion and upgrading of a community park and installation of a basketball court at Point Plaisance Park, Laventille, under the East Port of Spain Development Company Ltd.
Boney also got State contracts to refurbish the basketball court at Prince Street, Port of Spain, and to construct a community centre on George Street, Port of Spain.
According to the document, the main contractor of the pavilion at Point Plaisance Park, Laventille, started the work in March 2012 and “abandoned in June 2012 due to threats to the initial contractor”.
Burke’s name appears next to ten Government contracts, including maintenance contracts from CEPEP, box drain construction and refurbishment of the Diego Martin ECCL Centre from the National Commission for Self-Help.
He also received contracts from the East Port of Spain Development Company and URP.
One of the persons listed on the contract worked closely with Rodriguez was also contracted to provide ICT surveillance access control to the Duncan Street Police Post. The man was retained by the HDC to do “remedial works” at its St Agustine project at Fidelis Heights and to do “maintenance work” at Lions Gate, Enterprise.
Rodriguez was linked to the construction firm RICO Development Company Limited and was hired through a second company as an “infrastructure supervisor” to build the police post on Duncan Street.
The same company lists Ancil “Chemist” Villafana as a director and was also retained to do work on “reconstructing two (2) storey, eight (8) apartment buildings at Phase 4 Beetham Gardens”.
The contract was officially awarded to another company but RICO was retained as a sub-contractor.
Rodriguez was detained in the police exercise several days ago and released yesterday.
Men linked to the Cassava Piece gang, which is a subset of the Beetham Alliance/Rasta City gang, have been linked to the HDC contract to refurbish windows at the Harpe Plannings and is listed as a CEPEP contractor.
Another member of the same unit, Jonathan “Tallo” Moore, tendered for two agricultural contracts which included the rental of heavy equipment. He received approval for three projects on Basilon Street, Port of Spain, “but the projects were on hold for unknown reasons.” He was also retained for work on the Mango Rose project but that job “was halted for unknown reasons”.
Back in 2013, Moore won a case against the State for $165,000 after he was reportedly beaten with a hammer during a police raid at his home which he claimed left him with permanent injuries. Moore, of Bath Street, East Dry River, Port-of-Spain, filed the lawsuit for unlawful arrest, assault and false imprisonment after the December 17, 2009, incident.
Moore, the son of police inspector Daniel Moore, said then that he was arrested by police almost 14 times between 2007 and 2010.
Rajaae Ali, who is currently being tried for the murder of attorney Dana Seetahal, is also on the list.
Guardian Media contacted current National Security Minister Stuart Young for comment via WhatsApp but though he read the messages, he did not respond.
Contacted for comment on the issue, former housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said he was not sure there was a report on the issue but said he knew that then minister of national security Griffith had a “deep concern with an alleged link between state contracts and criminal elements benefiting from same.”.
“He raised the matter with me and we were collaborating to deal with the matter within the confines of the law,” Moonilal said