BY ROBERT ALONZO
A former associate of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, now in protective custody in Venezuela, says he knows who put the five kilogrammes of cocaine and two mortar bombs in United National Congress MP Sadiq Baksh’s water tanks in 2002.
The ex-DEA man, who has a south Trinidad address but lives in Caracas, said he wanted a meeting with Director of Public Prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson to give him the facts.
Vernon Paul, 42, in an interview last week in Caracas, said he will give the DPP information that certain high-ranking People’s National Movement politicians were responsible for hatching the plan, together with a former senior man in the Jamaat al Muslimeen, to frame Baksh and Opposition Chief Whip Ganga Singh.
The intent of that plan was to help destabilise the UNC in the 2002 general election, he said.
During two days of interviews in Caracas, Paul, who appeared to be well known by top business executives in the bustling city, gave details of how he came to know of the plot and what it entailed.
Among Paul’s shocking disclosures was that a Venezuelan operative smuggled into Trinidad:
* 25 kilos of pure cocaine;
* two boxes of C-4 explosives, each containing five kilogrammes;
* seven FAL assault rifles;
* nine hand guns;
* four missiles;
* one launcher;
* 250 boxes of 7.62 mm ammunition;
* 12 boxes of 9mm ammunition; and,
* seven hand grenades.
Paul said of the four missiles and the launcher that came to Trinidad, two of the mortar bombs and the launcher were still unaccounted for, along with:
* the 250 boxes of 7.62 mm ammo, each box containing 50 rounds;
* the seven FAL assault rifles, each carrying two magazines taped together;
* the 9mm pistols with magazines; and,
* 12 boxes of 9mm ammunition, each containing 50 rounds.
He said the weaponry was still in T&T, in possession of someone he code-named The B Man.
Paul gave the dates when meetings were said to have taken place at the homes of certain politicians. The DEA associate said the plan was that Baksh and Singh would be charged with drug trafficking and possession of ammunition after the illegal drugs and missiles were found at their homes.
Paul said: “While Ganga was talking on the news that cocaine and missiles were found in Sadiq’s water tanks, cocaine and ammunition were also planted at his (Singh’s) home and he knew nothing.
“The plan was to set up both of them, but the cocaine and ammunition were pulled back secretly from Ganga’s house and he (Singh) did not even know that he, too, was to be set up.”
The plan, Paul said, was that while Baksh and Singh were busy trying to get bail after their arrests, the PNM would call a meeting at its Balisier House headquarters in Port-of-Spain to discuss the arrests. One of the C-4 explosives would have been planted at Balisier House hours before, programmed to blow up the building before the arrival of any official.
The intention was that it would look like political revenge by the UNC for the arrests of Baksh and Singh, said Paul.
He gave the names of four PNM politicians, whom he claimed brokered the deal to frame Baksh and Singh. He also gave code names for three of the men: Los Angeles, The Institution Man and The B Man.
“The most stupid and dumbest man I have ever met in my life is The Institution Man. He arranged meetings at the homes of politicians, with politicians,” Paul said.
Paul claimed he was “wired” at those meetings and had taped the conversations. He said the tapes would be his trump card to prove the guilt of the people whose names he was calling.
He also claimed a whopping US$100 million had been the price negotiated to set up Baksh and Singh.
Paul said the Venezuelans who smuggled the items into T&T were paid only US$500,000 and that they wanted the rest of their money now. He said that apart from himself, two Venezuelans, one of whom is currently in jail in Caracas, also wanted to talk to DPP Henderson.
Paul named the actual “planter” of the bombs and cocaine in Baksh’s water tank as dead kidnapper Riad Abdool-Quadir, aka Apache, a former member of the Jamaat al Muslimeen who lived in East Dry River, Port-of-Spain .
According to police reports, Abdool-Quadir was shot dead in January 2003 in a “gang shooting” in Princes Town, hours after he was fined in a magistrate’s court for possession of ammunition.
Paul also said he had evidence that the arms and ammunition found at the Jamaat al Muslimeen’s headquarters at Mucurapo during the police raid last October came from the same batch as that brought into T&T by the Venezuelan operative.
Yesterday, the Guardian reported that gun and ammunition possession charges against Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr were dropped. Douglas Mendes, SC, who appeared for the State, said the decision was taken “after carefully considering the evidence.”
Bakr had been charged, along with two others, with unlawful possession of a firearm (a high-powered rifle), 569 rounds of ammunition and a prohibited weapon (hand grenade).
Told that he was fabricating the story for personal gain, Paul declared:
“I want nothing from nobody, the UNC or the PNM. I’m no pauper in Venezuela. I own an SUV that is sold in Trinidad for about $2 million, a CL55 AMG Benz and two motor bikes, one an R1 Yamaha valued at US$15,000 and a CBR 1000 Honda, which goes for about the same money.
“All I want to do is to come to Trinidad and testify against them because politics should not be so dirty.”
Paul also said certain people in Trinidad wanted him dead, and that contracts were out on his head. He said a Trinidadian hit man had already been arrested by the Venezuelan Guardia Nacional and was “singing” in Caracas.
He said he did have security in Venezuela but he was angry that people in Trinidad were trying to kill him.
“That’s why I am ready to talk now,” he said.
Asked why he waited so long, almost six years, to decide to give evidence and call names, he said:
“Because I have a conscience and a heart. And because I know they want to kill me.”
Paul said he willing to take a polygraph test to prove his story and issued a challenge for those whose names he called in his story to take the same test.
“If I fail the lie detector test, then let the DPP lock me up for perjury or conspiracy to frame them fellas,” he dared.
A fluent Spanish-speaker, who also holds Venezuelan citizenship, Paul appears to live an expensive lifestyle, announcing that he wears only designer clothes from Italy.
Saying he no longer did undercover work with the DEA, Paul said he now worked with the petroleum industry in Caracas. He did not give details of that job. He said he had worked with a special unit within the DEA, which tracked down “big” South American drug dealers and gun runners. He left that unit in 2002.
He keeps himself well-informed and up-to-date with the latest news and current affairs in T&T.
He boasted that he was the man who got the information about Deochan Ramdhanie’s whereabouts in Tucupita, Venezuela, and the one who led the team of DEA agents and the Guardia Nacional to recapture Ramdhanie, alleged drug trafficker, who had escaped custody in Trinidad.
He also said he was the man who first provided information about heroin coming into T&T to members of the now defunct Organised Crime and Narcotics Unit.
Rather bitterly, Paul said in December last year, he contacted a senior member of the Special Anti Crime Unit (Sautt), telling him that he wanted to come to T&T to tell his story.
He said the Sautt officer accused him (Paul) of trying to frame some politicians. Paul said the officer told him to “deal” with Police Commissioner Trevor Paul.
So last week Monday, that’s exactly what he did. Commissioner of Police Trevor Paul was given a signed statement from Vernon Paul.
Asked two Fridays ago, before he received this statement, if he knew the former DEA man, the CoP said he did know of a Vernon Paul but has never had any communication with him.
©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited
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