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Israeli in court for stealing Govt stamp

An Israeli man who appeared before a Port-of-Spain magistrate yesterday charged with stealing from the Trinidad and Tobago Immigration Office, attempted to change his initial plea of not guilty to guilty, in the hope of being able to return to his native country.

Appearing before Magistrate Maureen Gafoor in the City’s Fifth Court was 26-year-old Vatang Agrunov of Tel Aviv, Israel. The charge laid against Agrunov states that on November 3, at the Immigration Office of Trinidad and Tobago on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, the accused stole an immigration extension stamp belonging to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

The accused man asked the magistrate to re-read the charge slowly, explaining to her that he was unable to properly understand what she was saying. The magistrate did what she was asked to, and the accused entered a not guilty plea.

Court police prosecutor Sgt Samuel immediately objected to bail, stating that the accused had no social ties to Trinidad. Samuel also informed the court that investigating officers were still trying to ascertain the true identity of the accused and, as a result, Agrunov was deemed a flight risk.

Samuel also told the court that the accused was legally in the country and that his status of "visitor" was granted until November 10. Immigration officer De Leon, who was in court for yesterday’s proceedings, indicated that Agrunov’s passport and ticket were in their possession.

Gafoor then noted that the accused did not have legal representation and, as a result, referred the matter to the consulate located in Venezuela. She then adjourned the matter to November 14.

However, the matter did not end there as the accused, who was concerned about his departure date, asked if a change in his plea would allow him to return to his native country by November 10.

"I do not have any money to buy a new ticket. My ticket is up to November 10. I just want to finish so I can go back to my country. My family does not know where I am, or what has happened to me. I just want to say I am guilty, ok," said Agrunov.

Agrunov also threatened, "Me no eat until Government send me back to my country."

"The court does not accept a plea of convenience. You told me you understood the charge when it was read to you, and you pleaded not guilty. You cannot change that," responded the magistrate.

Agrunov was arrested in a house at Spring Trace, Arouca, but it was revealed in court that the owner of the house has since asked that he not return to the "shack," as described by investigating officers. Investigations are continuing.

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