When a team of police officers descended on the Drugs Sou Sou’s (DSS) office in La Horquetta on September 22 and purportedly seized around $22 million, little did the country know that a seemingly routine raid would turn into an imbroglio never before seen in the history of law enforcement in T&T.
In fact, the case is considered to be so grievous that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Thursday night described it as “a cancer that could eat the soul of this nation.”
The involvement of members of the T&T Police Service and Defence Force in the operations of DSS and the stunning return of the cash seized by the police to DSS operator Kerron Clarke, left Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith astounded at the time, perhaps by the brazenness of how law enforcement officers allegedly involved in DSS operated without fear of being caught.
Commissioner Griffith later said there were “Trojan horses” in the T&TPS and that the investigations into the incident were being hindered and misdirected by his own officers.
Before he abruptly proceeded on vacation yesterday, the Commissioner suspended four officers, including two seniors and transferred 11 others. While Commissioner Griffith said this was done “to allow the entire probe to be conducted in the most transparent manner,” simply transferring some officers to other stations or divisions is not enough given the magnitude of the alleged activities involved.
The lengths that some officers who appear to be complicit in the scandal have gone to cover their tracks and brazen acts suggest there should be no opportunity for them to get their tentacles anywhere near policing matters at this juncture.
Although the Commissioner is known for his no-nonsense approach to crime, the DSS saga clearly warrants the investigative expertise of external, independent law enforcement officials.
The announcement by Prime Minister Rowley that British and Barbadian investigators are on their way to probe the DSS scandal is, therefore, more than welcome.
Already, the TTPS, Defence Force, Police Complaints Authority and Financial Intelligence Unit have all undertaken probes into the DSS scandal.
In the meantime, however, this media house queries why the DSS is being allowed to continue its operations, given the pronouncements on it by both Commissioner Griffith and Prime Minister Rowley?
While its administrators have claimed their innocence, several questions surrounding the establishment, inclusive of its name, do not sit right with sectors of the population. Dr Rowley himself says it is not a sou-sou and described it as a threat to national security. Commissioner Griffith meanwhile asserted it was a much bigger enterprise than originally thought and involved several major players, including some involved in criminal enterprise.
In the interest of justice and fairness, therefore, the operations should be ceased pending the completion of this probe as well.
If citizens are to believe Government and law enforcement officials are all serious about decreasing crime—all crimes—action must, therefore, be taken to ensure the integrity of the probes is maintained.