BY ROBERT ALONZO
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency has been called in to help local investigators track down who was responsible for smuggling close to $800 million worth of cocaine into T&T.
A source said yesterday that DEA officers had already been briefed about Tuesday’s seizure, which resulted in the arrest of eight men—five Venezuelans, an Antiguan and two locals.
They were charged late yesterday with drug trafficking and are expected to appear at Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court today to answer the charges.
Court and process officers said security would be tight in and around the courthouse, as the cocaine, guns and suspects would be escorted by heavily-armed police.
Investigators said they were also not ruling out the possibility that the consignment could have been part of a larger shipment seized recently by the Venezuelan navy, 400 miles east of Trinidad’s territorial waters.
In that joint exercise, which involved the French navy, the boat, Don Matilde, was stopped and three metric tonnes of pure cocaine seized.
Eight Venezuelans and a Peruvian were held in that bust.
Venezuelan ambassdor Hector Azocar is out of the country and embassy officials were unavailable for comment.
Venezuela’s foreign minister Ali Rodriguez, who is also overseas, is due back in the South American country on Monday.
In the bust on Tuesday, close to 1,800 kilos of pure cocaine and a cache of arms and ammunition were seized after police and Coast Guard officers raided a beach house named Passy Bay on Monos Island at around 3 am.
Sources had initially said the house was on Passy Island off Monos.
The house, jointly owned by Patrick Fitzwilliam and Helen Forbes, had been under surveillance by intelligence officers for sometime.
Both Fitzwilliam and Forbes declined comment yesterday.
Pressed further, Fitzwilliam said Passy Bay was the name of a town in France.
Investigators said Fitzwilliam and Forbes were not suspected to be involved in any illegal activity and that the beach house was being used to store drugs unknown to them.
Senior investigators said Fitzwilliam and Forbes were regarded as citizens of high respect.
Through an interpreter, the five Venezuelans were questioned individually by a team of detectives.
The Antiguan and the two locals were also quizzed.
A spokesman said investigators were able to confirm from follow-up information that only part of the shipment was to remain in T&T.
He said the other portion was to be collected by other traffickers to be exported to some Caribbean countries and parts of Europe and North America.
Investigators strongly suspected that the cocaine originated from cartels in Colombia, he said.
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