Two police investigators from Barbados have arrived in Trinidad and Tobago to help local law enforcement with a probe into the police seizure, and return of, $22 million from the Drugs Sou Sou (DSS) operation.
The two are “senior officials” from the Royal Barbados Police Force, a police source said yesterday.
They arrived at Piarco International Airport just after 4 p.m.
They were swabbed for Covid-19 and placed in isolation, where they are expected to remain for the next two weeks, as per national health protocols.
The two men were brought in to aid the T&T Police Service in its investigations into the finances of DSS.
They are expected to be sworn in this week as special reserve police (SRP) officers and will be stationed in the Port of Spain Division.
They will report to Assistant Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob, who is spearheading the enquiry with the help of officers from the TTPS’s Professional Standards Bureau, Financial Intelligence Bureau and Special Operations Response Team (SORT), which conducted the raid of DSS’s operations at a house at Kathleen Drive in La Horquetta last month.
Up to last evening there was no word as to when other investigators from the United Kingdom are expected to arrive.
Last Thursday, at a post-budget virtual meeting, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he sought the intervention of foreign investigators to help unravel matters involving the DSS organisation and possible misconduct of Trinidad and Tobago Police Service officers.
The matter involved the seizure of $22 million in cash which had been found in the house at La Horquetta on September 22.
Nine people were initially detained during the raid.
CCTV footage obtained by the Sunday Express showed one of the members of SORT stuffing an envelope into his uniform.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said the man was not a police officer, but a soldier.
On September 23, the money seized during the raid was returned to the founder of DSS and the nine people were released from custody.
This was done without his knowledge, Griffith said, adding that an investigation into how this happened was launched.
This culminated last Friday, when four police officers were suspended, and another 11 transferred under orders from Griffith.
The Commissioner said based on preliminary investigations, it had become necessary to suspend the four policemen, two of whom are senior officers.
Full access for cops
Griffith said the Professional Standards Bureau was mandated to carry out the investigation into the return of the money. This investigation is also being spearheaded by Jacob, who is currently acting as Police Commissioner while Griffith is in Ireland on vacation and for a medical check-up.
“...I recommended that (the foreign cops) be SRPs to ensure that they have full access required to all evidence, so I was consulted and yes, I did agree,” Griffith said.
Griffith, speaking with the Express last weekend, emphasised that prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement, the Police Service had been consulted and that the Government had “in no way” made any policing decisions above the head of the TTPS.
He said the Government had not “taken control” of the DSS investigation.
“This only takes place in a police state... this is not a police state and at no time did the Government direct or ‘go over the head of the police’ in this or any investigation under my watch,” he said.
Griffith said in his personal view, the National Security Council acted in a very responsible, timely and pro-active manner as this was not just a police issue, but one of national security.
He said their decision to trigger a memorandum of understanding (MOU) seeking outside support to assist the police in this investigation was welcomed by the TTPS.
Griffith emphasised the need for foreign help, saying he had encountered difficulties and interference from local police officers.
Police last Saturday shut down DSS’s “sou sou” registration in Tobago after it was found that people were breaching public health ordinance regulations amid the Covid-19 pandemic by gathering in large groups.
Seven people were arrested and charged with breaching the regulations.
DSS founder Kerron Clarke maintained during an interview with the Express last month that his multimillion-dollar La Horquetta-based operation was not a pyramid scheme.
Clarke, a serving member of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force for the past 13 years, said he felt victimised by the raid at La Horquetta.
“I have never been charged with any offence, I have no pending matters. I have a clean record. I am of impeccable character. You raid my residence three times in one month. You seized $22 million after (officer took money), you came with no warrant for the search. It was distasteful watching what was taking place,” he said.
Clarke insisted DSS was an investment, and not a pyramid scheme, as was being touted by police.
He asked on what grounds the cops kept raiding his home.
“I am doing something which is uplifting people. Everyone who has invested has been paid,” he said.