Guns

A “network that is quite mercenary in orientation” masterminded by a senior cop in the granting of firearm user’s licences has been uncovered.

Through this “network”, large sums of money are being paid to this senior cop who has used his office to enrich himself through the granting of FULs and variations.

This finding is contained in an Intelligence Brief done for chairman of the National Security Council, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, following an investigation into allegations that members of the public were paying huge sums of money to procure firearm user’s licences.

“What is emerging appears to be the creation of a network that is quite mercenary in orientation. One of the key goals of this network is to benefit from improper financial gain through several TTPS business sector partnerships. The I Support Our Services (ISOS) initiative is also an avenue that is exploited for profit and has been used as a money-laundering mechanism. The protection of this network is partially achieved through the goodwill of key elements in the society, which includes media personnel and certain public figures. Furthermore, the hiring of Special Reserve Police Officers, civilian staff, and the undermining of executive and other senior police officers of the TTPS, have all been highlighted as mechanisms, geared towards his (the particular senior cop) maintaining maximum control, while seeking to mask his nefarious activities,” the brief stated.

Secret presentation

Over the period December 18, 2020, to February 22, 2021, a retired chief of defence staff and a retired head of Special Branch were appointed by the National Security Council to examine several allegations of people being charged a fee by members of the TTPS to procure FULs. “The team conducted several interviews with a wide cross-section of stakeholders and engaged several intelligence sources. As a result of the wealth of intelligence gathered on this matter, the team found it extremely difficult to fully convey the scope of discoveries within the confines of an official report. Consequently, it was deemed necessary that a secret presentation be made to the chairman of the NSC, to explore the issues that were unearthed in the investigations,” the report stated.

The brief states “intelligence has suggested that the approval process for the award of FULs is merely the tip of the iceberg, in what is in fact a pattern of corruption and profiteering under the legitimate body of the Firearms Unit of the TTPS. It was divulged that the processing and quick award of FULs are used by (the named cop) and other senior officers as currency in a bartering system”.

The brief stated that the senior cop was closely associated with two gun (named) dealers “from Central and South Trinidad) who are known to have paid him... huge sums of money for the grant of FULs to persons they represent”.

It also named a relative of a senior civilian TTPS member who was “promptly granted his Firearm Dealer’s Licence” and who also operates a recently-established food retail business.

The brief stated that “illegal payments by other firearms dealers under the guise of them supporting the ISOS initiative, whereby cash donations were handed over to a woman Special Reserve Officer (who is named) and who works out of a senior police officer’s office”.

The brief said the senior cop also “collects money/payment from applicants for the variation of firearm user’s licences” at his residence. Names were provided of several senior officers whom the brief said were complicit. It also stated that the placing of certain individuals in key positions “so as to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of the network” was a key aspect of the senior cop’s strategy, adding that it was noteworthy that these persons were not experienced senior officers.

The brief referred to a deliberate strategy of broadening the pool of applicants for FULs, and the increase in the amount of ammunition that can be held by licence holders from 25 rounds to 40 rounds. “Furthermore, existing license holders will have to apply to the Firearms Unit in order to vary their licence to carry the additional ammunition,” the brief said.

Intimidation and coercion

The brief outlined a “growing tendency towards intimidation and coercion” by the senior cop and his “chosen” officers. It cited the transfer of a senior officer who was also sent on vacation allegedly because he started an investigation into another senior officer. The intelligence brief said sources claimed that the officer (who it named and who has since resigned) had made it clear to the senior cop that if he were to be investigated, he would “expose” him (the senior cop).

The brief also stated that there was a lot of interference by the senior cop which it said “is also evident through intrusive management of the Firearms Unit, for example the frequent transfer of personnel at the Firearms Section”. The brief spoke of the involvement of civilians in the work of the Firearms Section. “The team can confirm that (names called of the two gun dealers from South and Central) have requested and received the removal of staff at the Firearm section,” the brief said.

The brief concluded that the actions of the senior cop “undoubtedly have the potential of bringing the TTPS into disrepute and ultimately compromising national security, if the full extent of his manipulation and corrupt practices are fully appreciated”.

Recommendations

Several recommendations were proposed in the brief as follows:

• That there be a declaration/account of the funds or other contributions made to the TTPS towards the ISOS initiative, and how they have been distributed within the TTPS to the benefit of the organisation;

• There should be an investigation into/­review of the hiring practice for Special Reserve Police Officers and civilian members;

• There should be a forensic audit into the financial approvals (authorised by the senior cop) with focus upon contracts;

• It might be “prudent”, through an audit investigation, to determine “the level of ­enrichment” the senior cop would have gained within recent years.

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