Crime pay$ big buck$

By Raffique Shah
March 04, 2012

Raffique ShahCRIME pays. Big time. And big bucks. We always knew that. Mostly, when we think of profiteering off criminal activities, we think of criminals and attorneys, one breed often indistinguishable from the other. The ties that bind them are the blood, sweat and tears of the victims of crime, mainly innocent people who work hard to provide the basics for their families, only to be relieved of their material possessions, at times their lives, by ruthless criminals.

The majority of criminals blow their ill-gotten gains on bling, setting some aside to pay attorneys’ fees. Smart criminals use the loot from their nefarious activities to enhance their personal lives, to acquire property, luxury vehicles, live the good life, although they too must share the spoils with their attorneys. On the face of it, these two groups appear to be the main beneficiaries of crime. Right? Wrong!

Last week, I read where a company comically named “Wala Wala Ltd” gained $850,000 a month because of the high crime rate. I rubbed my eyes to see if my vision was deceiving me. But no, the numbers were there, provided by my one-time army colleague, Brigadier John Sandy, and I know that “Wang” does not lie. Never did. So what’s Wala Wala’s story, its claim to fortune, if not fame?

It seems that when the Government declared a State of Emergency last year, the plan was to lock up so many suspects, there would be no room at the nation’s already overcrowded prisons for the influx of felons and detainees. Wala Wala owns a massive but un-utilised warehouse-style structure that once housed the Neal & Massy’s car assembly plant. Somebody spoke with somebody, I can only imagine, and a deal was struck.

Thus, the privately-owned warehouse was converted into a taxpayers’ funded prison that cost a whopping $50 million. Having paid to rebuild the innards of the structure, the Government now rents it at a cost of $850,000 a month. How many dangerous criminals are housed in Wala Wala’s jail? It started out with 17, I believe, all of whom the State had to release unconditionally when the Emergency expired. Today, there are just over 100 prisoners, who, we are told, will soon enjoy cable television.

Now, if that is not as much madness as public funding for Prophetess Juliana’s Temple, I don’t know what is. Who concocted this? Wala Wala? Cabinet? Adviser? Ever since I first heard and read of this seriously jokey affair, a calypso sung by the venerable Lord Cristo has been humming in my head, much the way Shadow’s “Bassman” haunted him. Christo, in “The Dumb Boy and The Parrot”, sang, “Where ignorance is bliss, it’s folly to be wise…” In one of the better calypsoes of yesteryear, the dumb boy and the parrot (Lorito) warned the bard of his wife’s infidelity. He paid no heed when Lorito said, “Wala Wala Bing Bang, in dey!”

It seems that we citizens are being “Wala-Wala-Bing-Bang-ed” by a devilish deal that amounts to profiteering off crime. Because the cost of housing a handful of prisoners at this private facility runs well beyond the numbers above. The prisoners must be fed, clothed and guarded, at additional expense. And we have not factored in the cost of cable television. See what I mean when I say that crime pays? It’s an industry, a huge enterprise that spans government offices, corporate boardrooms, secluded mansions, running right through gangsters’ dens, drug barons’ castles, to “good citizens” who buy stolen items, and lowly pushers’ turfs. Much like the trillion-dollar military-industrial complexes in developed countries that promote war, crime could also dictate national policies.

In this scheme of things, criminals become almost irrelevant, except that they are required to continue their heinous activities to keep fuelling the industry. Let me put it another way. If, by some magic, crime and criminals were to vanish, what would be the fallout? Who would need the tens of thousands of law enforcement officers, security guards and associated personnel? Nobody! You and I could leave our doors open and sleep tight. We could prune the Police Service, retaining only a small number of officers to control traffic. Hundreds of security companies would go out of business. Empires built off continuing crime would crash.

Over the past decade or more, home and office security systems, CCTVs, eyes-in-the-skies and similar electronic equipment have found their way into every nook and cranny, literally. Companies have sprung up across the country offering every imaginable “protective” device. This is another multi-million dollar business that thrives off crime. If crime were to dissipate, it would disappear.

Some years ago, government contracted a large private security company to transport prisoners from the nation’s prisons to courts across the country. The police had previously performed this task, as they do in most countries. But government privatised it. The company that landed the contract must have made hundreds of millions, possibly billions of dollars, doing what is essentially a function of the police. Crime pays.

Because of the level of crime in this country, the Prime Minister, in addition to having at her service three-to-five ministers and a National Security Council, also has a number of national security advisers. So did the previous prime minister. Indeed, the PNM government imported foreign police officers and crime experts, at considerable cost, to help fight crime. It cost us, but it did not help. Citizens remain under siege.

While law-abiding citizens pray for crime to be eliminated, there are others, among them “good citizens” about whom Sparrow sang, who profit off the crime. They no doubt pray for crime to continue. For them, the more the merrier. Best of all, we suffer and we pay while they play. What a thing…

20 thoughts on “Crime pay$ big buck$”

  1. Other feeders off the public trough include sellers of gated systems, and the electronic monitoring required, security services,guard dog systems,burglar bar fabricators( people barbecue systems) and gun salesmen, who have to import high tech weapons for army, police, coast guard, and security services. Security consultants also.
    They are maggots feeding on the national fear that keeps people prisoners in their own homes.
    While Mr. and Mrs. middle Class citizen are locked in after dark, and unwilling to go outside, scared of a dog barkinng at a rat, the big crooks with fast boats are unloading drugs, guns and illegal immigrants under cover of darkness. The big businessmen near Point Lisas are more bold. They pack containers with guns among car parts, and marijuana among frozen meat and vegetables. To make all this successful, they corrupt the press, who inform the people that the LAventille set are the criminals. Thus, all those arrests and detentions that filled that wharehouse, amounted to no convictions that I have heard of. People sit around and dream up schemes to continue to rip off the government, now that the Waterfront Towers have enough space to house most government offices,in town, and the rent from privately owned rat holes is coming to an end. Those who lease cars to police and other agencies, are also on the take. By the next three years, all of TnT will be walking with one hand covering the frontal private parts and one hand covering the behind. The very clothes would have been stripped from our backs.

    1. There is nothing new about all of this. This has been going on for decades. The only difference at this time is that a new set of “contractors” have replaced the former feeders of the public trough. The PNM Port of Spain displaced “elites” and others are fuming with discontent and angry at their PNM MPs for failing them. They consider themselves victims of retrenchment and discrimination by the new government.They have enjoyed priviledged status for so long that they are unable to cope without “ripping off the government”. This is politics. New governments flush out the cronies of the old regime from State boards,contracts etc. and install their own. It happens in all democracies. The colthes “are stripped from the backs” of some and placed on the others. Not everyone will be naked.

    2. A Trinidad journalist, P. Persad, has struck a chord with this piece:

      Whether we like it or not, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, the reality is that T&T is a multicultural country. Governing such countries poses distinctive and complex challenges which, if not properly addressed, can lead to social chaos with economic ruin a distinct possibility. The problem here is compounded by the historic fact that up to a decade or two ago, the cultural space, to all intents and purposes, was seen as the realm of one dominant culture.

      The other cultures were in effect ignored or tolerated once they were not afforded their rightful share of the national cultural pie. Or in a culinary analogy, aloo pie was fine for Chaguanas, Penal and other similar rural settings; for the national and official stage it had to be potato pie. In this scenario, by way of example, Hindu and Baptist cultural practices were reflective of the former, Carnival and Christmas the latter.

      Now that the historically dominant culture has to share space and resources with other cultural actors, naturally there would be resistance, reluctance and petulance. To avoid unnecessary and disruptive actions on those clamouring for their rightful due and those fighting to keep the status quo, a clearly articulated and transparent policy is required.

      1. How does racism, or racial rivalry, connect with this article? My man!
        As I understand it, the author is pointing out that crime, and the publics fear of crime, has given rise to a burgeoning industry, and as such is making the T&T economy even more inefficient. We have much more than the average number of police per citizen. I have not been able to research the figures with respect to Lawyers, but I suspect that that ratio is even worse.
        Is it your thesis that crime is partly caused by racial rivalry?

        1. REread Linda Edward’s comment and you might agree that my response was appropriate.

      2. It has always been my perception that most of the lawyers in T&T, at least post independence, are from one “culture”. There is no sign that this will change in the near future.”The colthes “are stripped from the backs” of some and placed on the others” somehow does not seem to be relevant here!

  2. I came across this article,ironically, in’s archive, while trying to obtain the proper definition of the term “Parliamentary Privilege”, on the internet.
    I must admit that, having perused several definitions and explanations of the term, I am nowhere closer to what I really need to know: Is the term interchangeable with “immunity from consequences to defamation of someone’s character”, or, more pointedly, “lying on someone without having to face normal legal consequences of such actions”?
    My conclusion, for now, is that the term was coined in ignorance of our local, erstwhile politicians, prone as they are to “abuse” any loophole for nefarious gain, in this instant, political mileage . Where do they come from? We certainly deserve better!
    Mr. Shah’s analysis of the circumstances surrounding the Santa Rosa ” Multipurpose Facility” is by far the most credible I’ve read thus far. I would advise, guardedly, however, that the incorporator of a business is not necessarily the owner.
    Yes, crime IS “big business” for some. I am always irked when I am obliged to pull over and give way to the “Justice on time” prison vans, when they, sirens, horns and all, blare law abiding citizens out of their “right of way”. I surmise that this “Justice on time” deal is more about “tripsXtime=$$$”, than it is about timely dispensation of due process. Who is being fooled here?
    Finally, I knew that I’d heard the “Wala Wala” line somewhere: thanks for reminding us. The whole issue would be comical if it weren’t so irritatingly worrisome. Our “would be” leaders have us consigned to a slippery slope that is hurrying us along to irrelevance, if not “failed state” status. In do not think that God can continue being a Trini much longer!

  3. Sure crime is big buisness and it will continue to florish in Trinidad and Tobago as long as the Politicans and big business are in cahoots and remain above the law. Only the poor will be murdered, prosecuted and punished.

  4. Let everything be known !!!
    Life has become webbed into the general System- What keeps the wheel turning is the $$$$…
    Government now is a Business
    School is Business
    Security is Business
    Churches is Business
    From ABC to 1 2 3- From the cradle to the Tomb, this modern generation is existing only seeking Money and Materialism…
    I wonder if there is life on Planet Earth that is not affected by this $$$$.
    Indigenous races seems to know the value of Euro and US, some accepting Credit cards on tours now..
    Money is the god of this world and the bankers are the prophets, politicians and bankers rules the day.
    Who controls the wealth, controls every other things that are associated with it.
    Remember the man say “He who is stirring the pot is not in the cook”
    When we reasoning like this “we fast and out of place” “catch yourself boy, them elites know all the tricks in the book”.
    When yuh try thinking out of the box- “Ar go tell”…”Yu go see”…

    1. When you say “churches” please be sure to say “Mosque, MArdir and Temple’ also lest people think you are talking only about Christians.
      Remember Christ in the temple among the money changers? The sale of lambs for sacrifice has gone on in Judaism for a thousand years before Christ. Today, the sale of lambs and sheep to be sarificed for Eid Al Adha goes on. Temples(Hindu) are used to raise money, and to get people to swear on the lotah that they will vote a certain way(I was stunned when I heard this in Rio Claro in 1987).
      Second and third collections are routinely made in Church for “the Pastor’s Birthday” “The pastor’s wife’s birthday”-she is often referred to as Lady —-, and other such nonsense. The churches designate certain colours of women’s clothes for certain days, but the men turn up in the same dark suits. Its all a carnival of colour, money and mess.
      Yes, religion is a business, but faith and spirituality are not. Those are based on the personal conversations one has with one’s creator.

  5. Trust people like T-Man to turn this into a racial argument.If all the contracts issued under the PNM, went to people of one culture, with a 35% overage for bribes and kickbacks, and then the contracts go to the same people under the PP with a 45% kickback, the entire country is deprived. When a firetruck costs three times what one would cost in other countries, all of us lose. When substandard equipment is purchased through special contract arrangements- airplanes, boats, laptops for students at 200 % markkup and above; it does not matter who is in power. We the poor catch our tails.
    The national treasury is being raped more and more ,daily. That is the point Raf was making. That was the point I was making.

    Back in 1965 a certain company on Edward Street went into recievership. They sold cars. Know what happened? A manager was brought in from England, who brought his wife here at company expense, purchased his groceries at company espense, and lived totally without expense until the bank came and stamped everythinh, and took over. A young accounts clerk in the business office had pointed out what was going on. He was my husband.

    This is a bit of history of what was the case at Engineering Ltd.Nothing has changed. Look at the perks of Gibbs etc, and what they are producing.

    1. Do you recall the episode of the escape convict from a prison in the United Kingdom? He arrived in Trinidad,and obtained a position in the civil service.This was during the days of colonialism.Vividly,I remember the manner in which he was caught.It was a “telegram” from his girlfriend.It read E.I.L.E.E.N Way back in the “day”

      1. I recall such a person being welcomed into all the high society parties. He even had his picture on the Guardian’s society pags,Dennis Stafford? I think. Interpol got him. We still adore palefaces, no mtater what their track record. Bernie Keric of NY City was about to be hired as a police consultant by the UNC when he was hauled off to jail in the US for fraud. How come we have never looked to Jamaica, Barbados or Bahamas for an ace crime fighter?Racism on our part? The only time such people got to participate was in the mutiny trial of 1970 when Raf and others faced a Commonwealth Tribunal. Even then Achampong of Ghana had to leave because a coup in his country, gave him a bigh post that he had to take up.

        1. WOW!excellent memory(Dennis Stafford)the name of the convict eluded me.Your response has “triggered” my synapse about the prison:It was Dartmoor prison.To reiterate consult Rudolph Guiliani for his expertise as a “crime fighter”

  6. well said mr.shah,we live in a world of good and evil,one cannot survive without the other,when there is not proper balance we have a the way dont forget the undertaker with the crocodile tears..we are all a bunch of hypocrites PEACE

  7. to take a page out of Geoege Orwell’s Animal Farm:
    the land of the free or
    the land of the fee?

  8. The whole state of emergency was a design to lock up black people and through that process funnel money to associates of the PP. Think about this. The description Shah provides above regarding the warehousing of people who for the most part were not ethnically and politically aligned with the PPP, presents deja vu reflection of what was occurring in South Africa under apartheid. This does not mean that we are living in an apartheid system in T&T. What means, is that there is shared mindset between those who had the power in South Afica during apartheid, and many of the leaders of the PP. And the behavorial patterns poignantly reflect this symbiosis.

    1. “There is shared mindset between those who had the power in South Africa during apartheid, and many of the leaders of the PP”. (Williams)

      Comments like this cannot be allowed to go unanswered. The comparison is absurd, denigrating and insulting to the men and women who have dedicated their lives to improve T&T, a multicultural society, through hard work and dedication to public life. The comment also minimizes the cruel concept of apartheid by comparing the state of emergency in democratic T&T to a system which dehumanized, exploited and enslaved the Blacks of South Africa.
      A closer examination of those arrested in T&T would show that people of both ethnic majorities were detained, even though the media focused primarily on displaying Black men before the population. The optics gave the impression that Black men were the only victims.
      There is also the misconception, fuelled by the Opposition that those arrested were innocent, harmless victims of a brutal State and police force. Most were known to Police or were violating the laws outlined during the State of Emergency. Most were released, not because they were innocent, but because of various technicalities resulting from errors made by the Police in enforcing the laws.
      It is interesting to note that many who were released were rearrested and jailed for a variety of criminal offenses. Others were murdered in gang warfare and some have resumed their criminal activities. For example, a gang was caught on camera committing crimes soon after their release.
      It is correct to state that the SOE was not fully effective because it failed to touch the higher class criminals behind the scenes, in the suburbs, and those who were “connected”. But to compare what occurred in T&T to apartheid is totally inappropriate. To accuse political leaders in T&T of sharing the mindset of the racist South African regime of apartheid is equally inappropriate and litigious.

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