Member of Parliament for Oropouche East Dr Roodal Moonilal remains under police investigation for allegedly being affiliated with members of the Rasta City gang.
The investigation came following an interception of communications last year allegedly between a top member of Rasta City and Moonilal, both of whom were said to have planned to meet at the Hyatt Regency (Trinidad) hotel on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.
Commissioner of Police Gary Grifith was aware of the interception, the Sunday Express understands.
However, on meeting day, a sting operation was organised and only four members of the gang arrived.
The issue of Moonilal and his alleged gang affiliation came to the fore earlier this year during a Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting.
In presenting the case, Government Minister Camille Robinson-Regis had said the JSC recommended that Moonilal recuse himself from the enquiry on crime, based on the evidence given by the Commissioner of Police and Minister of National Security Stuart Young, and that he (Moonilal) had been identified in intelligence reports in relation to certain gang members.
The JSC report indicated members of the committee felt Moonilal had a “personal and direct interest in matters before it”.
Moonilal was subsequently voted out of the meeting.
On June 26, Moonilal indicated to Parliament he was in possession of two letters, one written by his attorney, Israel Khan SC, and the other by Assistant Commissioner of Police Irwin Hackshaw, dated March 2 and 13, respectively.
At the time, Deputy Speaker Esmond Forde was in the chair as House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George was the subject of the motion being debated.
The motion was seeking to censure the Speaker.
Moonilal said the letter written by Hackshaw had rubbished claims he was on friendly terms with gang members.
Moonilal said, “Mr Deputy Speaker, in the aftermath of being pelt out of a JSC by this House, by a majority of the PNM, my lawyer, Israel Khan, wrote to Commissioner Gary Griffith, March 2, 2020, and I am responding here to the direct attack I face today from the National Security Minister and Prime Minister.
“The letter dated March 2 by Khan, said, Re: Statement of Mr Stuart Young in the press 2020. I am counsel for Dr Roodal Moonilal. He is an attorney, as well as serving as an Opposition Member. In January and February 2020, there have been several newspaper articles quoting statements made by Mr Stuart Young.
“He has made allegations and some specific allegations. In particular, the minister has stated that he has received information linking members of the Opposition to criminal elements, of which Dr Moonilal is presently a member. The minister is reported to have said I have been provided with information by arms of national security.
“I have read them, suggesting not only was I told, but the National Security Council was told by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service that in their opinion, instructions were given.... The minister’s general statements have been followed by specific statements alleging that Dr Moonilal is involved in such a link to criminal elements....”
Additionally, Moonilal said on March 13, Khan received a letter from the T&T Police Service, Office of the Commissioner of Police, written by then-acting commissioner Hackshaw, saying, “Police investigations into Hon Roodal Moonilal. Reference is made to a letter dated March, 02, 2020. Sir, please be informed that the head of the Special Investigative Unit has indicated that based on the information that they have at this time, your client, the Hon Dr Roodal Moonilal, MP, is not a suspect of any ongoing police investigation in relation to any gang-related offences in violation of the existing criminal law.”
Griffith: Letter null and void
In response to a question at a police news conference last Wednesday, Griffith indicated he was overseas when Hackshaw issued the letter to Moonilal through his attorney, Israel Khan SC.
The question asked by a reporter was, “Commissioner, during your absence in March, former acting commissioner Hackshaw would have stated Dr Moonilal did not have any pending charges before him...is that still the case?”
Griffith responded, “I was out of the country with that one, and let me be clear on something, the T&T Police Service, we are not supposed to be sending out...it is not a certificate of character we give out when any, especially persons in high office, they will be asked, given the letter of good faith, to state that we are clean, and that can then be used on a political platform or even in Parliament.
“I think that was inappropriate. The fact of the matter was that it was also unacceptable. I wish to say that that letter, I would like to have that letter returned because it is not in tandem with the directives of the T&T Police Service.
“Someone who holds high office is not supposed to get a letter of good character by the Police Service stating that how they are good boys or bad boys, but if it is that you are a bad boy or girl, you would get charged, you will be arrested and the public would know.
“What we can state is that there is an investigation pertaining to an issue, be it EMBD, LifeSport, CLICO or so whatever. But we should not be stating or telling persons that that individual is being investigated or he is not being investigated.
“And, more important, let me add that even myself, as Commissioner of Police, I certainly would not know every single person who is being investigated because the T&T Police Service, we have the Cyber Crime Unit, we have the FIB, we have the ACIB, we have the FIU, we have the Anti-Kidnapping Unit
“There are several different agencies and it is not the right of every single agency to bring forward information to the Commissioner of Police to say that this person is a person of interest or to say he or she is not.”
Griffith added, “This is not to say that the individual is, but I...I...it is inappropriate to say that he is not.
“So pertaining to that piece of paper, I consider it irrelevant. The letter was inappropriate and, in future, I wish to remind all police officers, you should not be submitting letters like that to any person, especially in high office. Because I am aware of how this thing works because I was in another place once, so I knew exactly what that boomerang would have made, and I think it was inappropriate because, just say forget this individual, say it was somebody else and then something happens, they will say that the police lied so it is an unfortunate situation, it was unacceptable and we can consider that letter null and void.”
Efforts by the Sunday Express to contact Hackshaw on Thursday and Friday by phone were unsuccessful.
Khan: No such correspondence
Contacted yesterday morning, Khan told the Sunday Express neither he nor Moonilal received any letter from Griffith saying Hackshaw’s letter was rescinded and Moonilal remains under investigation.
“We have not been informed of that, I have received no correspondence from the CoP. I have no such letter. As far as I am concerned, there is no such letter of rescind. I don’t know how he can rescind that letter, and if that is the case, then the person who sent out that letter has to then be placed on a disciplinary charge or disciplinary action,” Khan said.
TTPS supports me
Responding to questions on the issue posed by the Sunday Express yesterday, Moonilal said, “The police spoke to me twice in five years. On both occasions, it was to discuss the conduct of the Prime Minister, Keith Rowley, and his senior ministers. Actually, a member of the executive did question me on a case: how much cases of water I donated to the TTPS during the height of the Covid lockdown. That’s the only case I had with the TTPS.
“The TTPS has continually supported and assisted me in the conduct of my official duties. Their professionalism, from Commissioner Gary Griffith go down, has been impeccable and unimpeachable,” he said.
The TTPS executive comprises assistant and deputy commissioners of police, civilian heads of departments, as well as the Commissioner of Police.
The questions posed to Moonilal by the Sunday Express were:
1. Are you aware that you are a person of interest in an ongoing investigation within the TTPS, Re: allegations that you have gang affiliations?
2. Have you been interviewed by TTPS officers/contacted by said officers for an interview in relation to the above allegation?
3. Did you meet with any community leader/gang member at the Hyatt hotel within the past year? If yes, for what reason.
4. Has anyone from the TTPS, namely the police executive, alerted you to the ongoing investigation? If yes, who is said person?
Moonilal responded “NO” to all the questions posed.