IT was a soldier, not a policeman.
And an investigation will be launched to determine whether the member of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) committed any criminal act following the release of video footage showing an officer secretly pocketing an envelope during a raid in La Horquetta last week where $22 million in cash was seized from Drugs Sou Sou (DSS).
This is according to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, who stated in a release yesterday that the uniform worn by the officer as seen in the photograph published by the Express, and video, is not that of a member of Special Operations Response Team (SORT), but TTDF.
The Sunday Express report yesterday stated that the officer who was caught hiding the money in his uniform was from SORT, which carried out the raid.
Griffith said the TTPS will investigate this incident to ascertain what was in the envelope and if evidence was removed without authorisation by the TTDF personnel.
Griffith also took issue with some whom he said are labelling the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) in a negative light without getting the facts.
“Regardless of who took the envelope, this was a police-led operation, so the TTPS is responsible, and just as is being done to ascertain if the $22 million in cash discovered was acquired from legitimate means, and just as an investigation is ongoing to ascertain why would senior police officers return such money without the proper process, likewise, this latest development would also be thoroughly investigated,” he stated.
Stepping on large toes
The top cop pointed out that it was he who via his own informants started this investigation into a suspected pyramid scheme, and was able to target the house that had over $22 million in cash scattered in boxes and cupboards around it.
Noting that he is being criticised, Griffith said: “When I started to launch this type of investigation, I was told that I would be going into uncharted waters and would be stepping on large toes, inclusive of big criminal business, gangs who use such systems to launder funds acquired from the drug trade, and also senior law enforcement personnel who would be involved and used as cover for the transporting and securing of such funds.
“The desperate attempts to get me to back off, and even shift the focus from the real mastermind criminals, is now not surprising. To those who want to pretend that they know for fact that this is legitimate business, please show the receipts, and just making up receipts would not do. One must show source of funds, then we would investigate how and when each person who deposited such cash, acquired such cash to give to this legitimate business called - what was it again? Oh yes - DRUGS Sou Sou,” he stated.
He criticised the Sunday Express report, stating that it gave a “false impression” that if a police officer did something wrong then all 8,000 police officers must be discredited.
“They would say that the Commissioner would be at fault and is to blame, if one officer committed that act. That is what we have reached to now. In their exuberance to discredit myself or the Police Service, look at how many are behaving, as if there is any Police Service in the world which is 100 per cent perfect. By the grace of God, in this case it was not a police officer, but they want to find a way to bring down myself or the Police Service,” he stated.
Griffith added the police have “hit a nerve” with the exposure of this $22 million in cash.
“They are trying to divert attention away from the issue and to force the police to back off, but I want to assure you that the TTPS will be investigating police officers and other members of the protective services, whom it may appear, are heavily involved in this matter. It would seem, by the comments, that the public wants the blood of the police and not the criminals. I was the one who said the TTPS would investigate the discovery of the $22 million in cash in one house, but it seems there are people who were upset by my decision,” he stated.
Griffith pointed out that in the two years under his watch, 80 officers have been suspended, 60 arrested and he has requested that over 20 be dismissed from the service, amounting to disciplinary action taken, once every five days on officers.
“As Police Commissioner, I give the assurance that I would do all possible to ensure that no one in uniform would be given a free pass if they do not adhere to their oath of office. As long as I sit in the chair of Commissioner of Police, a badge or a uniform won’t protect you from wrongdoing. I am doing all that I can to save this country, but it seems that some deliberately do not want this country to be saved,” stated Griffith.