Hunt on for drug kingpin
BY ROBERT ALONZO, guardian.co.tt
Who's cocaine is it? This was the burning question that engaged the attention of intelligence officers for hours yesterday after police and Coast Guard officers confiscated close to $800 million worth of cocaine at a beach house on the western peninsula.
They said whoever the haul belonged to would have had good financing and high connections.
A spokesman said authorities were hoping to get detailed information about where the high-grade cocaine originated from and who was responsible for smuggling it into T&T.
But angry western division officers said yesterday they were upset as several other units were issuing news releases claiming that their units was responsible for the bust.
The Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT), in a statement, said that it was part of a joint operation involving the Coast Guard and western division police near Monos Island at 3 am yesterday.
SAUTT said "information received coupled with intelligence received" led to a boat being intercepted and a house on Monos Island being searched.
SAUTT also listed the drugs and weapons that were found.
In a separate statement, the Coast Guard said it began a surveillance exercise on Monday "to curtail illegal activities occurring on Monos Island."
Coast Guard units were deployed with western division police to "conduct surveillance in and around the island," the statement said.
The Coast Guard said 1,750 kilos of narcotics, weapons and an undisclosed amount of ammunition were seized.
Neither statements placed a value on the seizure.
However, western detectives flatly dismissed reports that Government's airship, the blimp, and other sophisticated radar technology were responsible for the seizure.
A senior officer said intelligence officers assigned to western division had been monitoring a boat which had been running between Venezuela and T&T for months.
He said that on Monday night western division officers were about to conduct an anti-crime exercise in Petit Valley and Cocorite where Jamaat al Muslimeen member Glenroy Charles and Marlon Scott were killed respectively on Sunday.
The spokesman said while that exercise was being fine-tuned at around 2.30 am they got information that a boat had made a drop on Passy Island, off Monos Island, the day before and that the boat was returning with more drugs.
The source said the police then contacted the Coast Guard for assistance.
He said the police team which went out to sea comprised acting Sr Supt Roderick Roach, acting Insp Anthony Lezama, Cpl Clifford Caesar and Constables Jones, Grant, Fouchet and Arneaud along with Lts Pooloo and Dindial of the Coast Guard.
He said the boat, on which two locals, an Antiguan national and one Venezuelan were on board, was intercepted close to Passy Island.
A large amount of cocaine in bales were found on the boat along with three guns and several rounds of ammunition.
The source said those suspects were taken on board the Coast Guard vessel and questioned after which the police and Coast Guard officers stormed a house on Passy Island where four more Venezuelans and additional bales of cocaine and weapons were found.
He said a total of 63 bales of cocaine, weighing approximately 1,800 kilos, were found.
He said the suspects are to be charged either today or tomorrow with drug trafficking after which they are to appear in court.
The charges, he said, were to be laid by Lezama.
The spokesman said they had already made contact with the Venezuelan consulate and Antiguan authorities about the foreigners' arrest.
Bust tip of the iceberg
BY GEISHA KOWLESSAR
Police made a dent in narco-trafficking yesterday, with the seizure of close to $800 million worth of high-grade cocaine and a cache of arms and ammunition in a drug interdiction exercise off Monos Island.
They said that the haul, comprising 1,749.9 kilos, which originated from South America, was the biggest bust in the history of T&T so far.
Police sources involved in the bust and the Coast Guard—the latter issued a statement—said five Venezuelans, two Trinidadians and an Antiguan were held during an exercise which began late Monday night and ended before dawn yesterday. However, the Special Anti-Crime Unit, in a separate statement, said four Venezuelan men and four Trinidadian men were in custody.
And later at St James Police Station, nine men were seen being led for questioning.
The operation was a joint effort between SAUTT, Organised Crime and Narcotics Unit and Western Division policemen, as well as the Coast Guard.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," a senior investigator said in a brief interview.
"From the information we received, there is much more narcotics out there in our territorial waters."
Investigators said they suspected that part of the drugs was to be dropped off somewhere in west Trinidad, while the other portion was to be transshipped to Europe and North America.
Another senior SAUTT member said, "No small businessman could be bringing in this volume of drugs.
"Is real big people involved."
Shortly after 3 am, the Coast Guard and Western Division police stormed a house on Passy Island, off Monos Island, where they discovered the narcotics carefully wrapped in thick plastic.
A boat was earlier intercepted after it was detected by the Coast Guard.
Although the statement did not say if they were found in the boat or in the house, the Coast Guard said investigations led to the discovery of four armed Venezuelans.
At the end of the exercise, the Venezuelans held numbered five, the Coast Guard said.
Arms comprising 7.62 self-loading rifles, a mini Uzi and various pistols including a Glock, a Browning, a Baretta, and an AR-180 5.56 automatic rifle were also found.
The items were transported from Staubles Bay, Chaguaramas, via a military convoy shortly after noon to St James Police Station, as there was not enough room at the Carenage Police Station to facilitate storage.
Reporters were hoping to interview junior National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds who arrived at Staubles Bay just after 9 am. However, his driver was seen leaving the compound alone.
Parts of Lazarie Street and Carlton Avenue where the St James Police Station is located were cordoned off as police offloaded the guns and drugs and escorted a number of men for interrogation.
OCNU members under Supt Gregory Corriea and Insp Robin Nanan briefly examined the drugs and transported the haul to the unit's headquarters at Park and Richmond Streets, Port-of-Spain.
1,749.9 kgs cocaine
one 7.62 SLR
one mini Uzi
one Browning pistol
one AR-180 5.56 automatic rifle
5.56 46 rounds two magazines
.38 six rounds
.380 25 rounds one magazine
.45 24 rounds two magazines
9 mm 47 rounds one magazine
7.62 99 rounds three magazines
©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited
Venezuelan Navy Seizes 3 Tons of Cocaine East of Trinidad
The Associated Press - Published: August 21, 2005
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