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Cocaine in diplomatic pouches: Accountant charged

By Denyse Renne,

An accountant, not a diplomat, has become the third man to appear before a Port-of-Spain magistrate, charged in connection with cocaine found in diplomatic pouches.

Bissoon Boodhai, 47, an accountant at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is charged with conspiring to traffic cocaine in T&T and elsewhere between November 30, 2003 and May 8, 2004.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry said Boodhai was neither a diplomat nor foreign service officer, as reported in Newsday.

On its front page yesterday, Newsday said that a diplomat had been charged.

However, the Ministry, which did not name Boodhai, said the person charged was a Clerk II, and had been attached to the High Commission in London as an accounts officer.

On May 22, Boodhai’s name had been called in the Lower House by UNC Chief Whip Ganga Singh as one of the people to whom the pouches was addressed.

Singh then called for the FBI and the New Scotland Yard to launch an investigation.

Appearing alongside Boodhai yesterday but facing another charge was Micah Smith, who is charged with trafficking of cocaine on May 3 at Queen’s Park West, Port-of-Spain.

Both men appeared before Senior Magistrate Lianne Lee Kim and were represented by attorneys Rangee Dolsingh SC and Larry Williams, respectively.

Smith, of Laventille Extension, Morvant, and a clerk at Foreign Affairs, first appeared in court on May 10.

He is jointly charged with Kurt Alexis, 26, a former security guard at the Ministry for possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

Alexis, of Cocoyea Village, San Fernando, and Smith were granted $100,000 bail each, providing they surrender their passports to the Clerk of the Peace and report to the nearest police station every Monday and Friday by 4 pm.

Dolsingh told the court that his client was arrested on Saturday and had no previous convictions.

He said Boodhai worked at the Ministry and was the father of three.

Dolsingh said he was applying for disclosure of statements obtained from the police in connection with Boodhai.

"The charge read before the court states that between November and May, my client conspired. However, he was not in the country at that time," he said.

"What does the charge mean by elsewhere?

"It is badly phrased. I want a proper reading of the charge."

Dolsingh said his client "was called to Trinidad on consultation and has not been suspended by the Ministry."

He asked that a reasonable amount of bail be granted for Boodhai, since he could not leave the country because the Ministry had his passport.

Lee Kim set bail at $150,000 for both accused, but after urging by Dolsingh that Boodhai only faced one charge, she fixed bail at $100,000.

The arrests of the men came after authorities found cocaine in diplomatic pouches addressed to T&T’s consulates in New York, London and Toronto.

A security guard at the Trinidad Consulate in New York found two kilogrammes of the drug on May 5, inside a hollowed-out telephone book and addressed to a low-level employee.

After the discovery, police searched the pouches at the Foreign Affairs Ministry before they left the country and discovered similar amounts of cocaine addressed to employees at consulates in Toronto and London.

The three people to whom the pouches were addressed were recalled from the consulates and questioned.

The matter was adjourned to June 3, when the three accused will reappear.

©2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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