Lennox Grant

Lennox Grant

POOR fella. Here’s the Trini lingo term for the masked and camouflaged figure, captured by who knows whose cameras, stuffing a captioned “wad of dollar bills” into some safe spot about his person. Was this photo the result of a luckless misadventure or what?

The image ended up on the Sunday Express front page, illustrative of a law enforcers’ raid on La Horquetta premises where $22 million in cash was found and, for want of a better word, impounded. Did we hear right, read right, see factually?

Twenty-two million, somehow add up to what must be trillions of the non-crinkly, slippery $100 banknotes, characterised as “polymer”. Their introduction by the Central Bank made headlines going past Christmas into this New Year, and even into Carnival 2020.

Here now is a reality with which T&T must reckon. People such as business owners and employees are reported, in these pandemic and otherwise unpromising times, as helplessly going broke. Money, cash, is understood to be getting scarce.

Still, big-number cash volumes appear to be all over the place. Last Old Year’s Day, a “small church” pastor was identified with possession of $28,046,500 made up of outdated paper $100 bills. The pastor claimed that fortune consisted of “tithes” contributed by churchgoers.

Just last weekend, bandits invaded a Tableland family home, and got away with $345,000 in cash. Now that’s without counting the value of cellphones and security equipment which formed part of the haul. The victims were reported to be pineapple farmers, who had stashed the six-figure value banknotes in black plastic bags around their house. Bandits’ ransacking efforts were duly rewarded.

Reading such news reports, customers who look left, right and then left again before inserting a plastic card into the ATM, and quickly counting and pocketing the results, have to wonder. As we briskly exit and make our way home or wherever, how much worry should be occasioned by the pre-dawn presence of those beggary figures just outside there? How much of a threat do they realistically represent?

No way can I, for one, imagine any prospect of withdrawing, from ATM or live teller, the multiples of cash notes evidently being received and hopefully hoarded. Either they are misrepresenting the facts, or those home-bound victims are thoughtlessly setting themselves up for bandit strikes.

Not having heard news about it for decades, I had assumed sou sou to be a thing of the distant past. Why else would I persuade myself to put such little cash as I command in the hands of people little-known and thus less deserving of trust?

To count $22 million, even when assisted by machine, takes how long? This under-performer in school arithmetic and math remains clueless about how to proceed, with any exercise of fingering, piling up, and recording such polymer millions as are now being successfully targeted and pocketed by outlaws.

An inescapable conclusion is that cash, sources queried, verified, or not, somehow abounds in today’s T&T. The overarching prospect remains that the money proliferates in hands clean and other. Dirty dollars are passing from hand to hand absent any reference to official stamp. Bank tellers must be assumed to be handing out cash on demand, without question or reference to higher authority.

So the officer whose uniform identification is disputed as high up as police commissioner and retired Major General just happens to be doing what he is being shown by camera at the wrong time and likely the wrong place. The “wad” of polymer notes he is shown as pocketing will hardly make much of a difference to the seven-figure aggregate, which was the taking seized by the authorities, whoever they may be.

Well, stop there. For, as the news story goes, the millions (or most of that sum) were returned to the presumably business people who were able to draw upon senior counsel support for whatever mission they were planning or pursuing with their stashes of polymer. Meanwhile, T&T remains bemused by the quantum of polymer whose purpose and origin remain largely mysterious.

CoP Gary Griffith is standing tall and firm behind his officers now wearing those picturesque but unfamiliar uniforms, and brandishing if not firing weapons to match. Maybe the officers, striding into and out of alleged crime scenes, never had it so good.

The CoP, meanwhile, seems able to cite and crack down upon numbers of officers he has found in policing fault. “A badge or uniform won’t protect you from wrongdoing,” he messaged his troops, uniformed and other.

In the vanguard of the CoP’s anti-crime attack force, the trooper shown stuffing dollars in the underwear of his uniform should be made to suffer the penalty of such “wrongdoing”. This much should be relied upon, given the CoP’s loudly outspoken declarations and promises.

Cash seems to be all over the place. And temptation appears to bedevil those sworn in various ways and times to enforce such law as is applicable. If, indeed, the commanding officer moves against the poor fella caught helping himself, that must simply be how the world turns.

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