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Imbert, Griffith clash on drug bust

By Clint Chan Tack Saturday, February 1 2014

DIEGO Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert and National Security Minister Gary Griffith yesterday crossed swords in the House of Representatives over the discovery of $600 million in cocaine that was found in tins bearing the label of Trinidad Citrus Fruit Juice last December at the port of Norfolk in Virginia, USA.

In moving a private motion on crime in the House, Imbert said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Griffith are publicly reported as saying, “This drug bust in Virginia was a result of sharing of information and intelligence.”

“If they are so intelligent and they have so much information, how come they did not hold the drug traffickers here?” Imbert asked.

Saying information out of the United States suggests that the cocaine bust was “a cold hit” by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with no help from this country, Imbert reiterated, “If this Government knows everything and they share information and they knew that some faceless person had put cocaine into orange juice and put it in a container ready for shipment why didn’t they hold the people here?”

Imbert declared, “It’s a shameful thing for TT that foreign drug enforcement agents have to come here to solve the puzzle of how all of this cocaine was put into cans of juice, labelled and packaged in a container in TT under the nose of National Security Minister and the local law enforcement agencies.”

Reiterating the Opposition’s condemnation about the cancellation of the offshore patrol vessel (OPV) contract and the disbanding of the Special Anti-Crime Unit of TT (SAUTT), Imbert scoffed, “If boasting and gun talk could solve crime, then this Government would be the most successful crime-fighting government in the world. They can’t make up their minds.” Condemning Government for the 407 murders which took place last year and 45 murders in January, Imbert expressed horror at the murder of nurse Jaya Dubay Ramrattan. “Look at the brazen criminality that we have.” In response, Griffith countered, “At no time did the Prime Minister say that we had a hand in this situation with this $644 million drug bust and at no time did I say we had a hand.”

“I have no intention to make any statement about this investigation. How could I say that and then boast that we had a hand?” he asked.

Saying the PNM keeps singing a Road March tune of “OPV SAUTT SAUTT OPV” as the solution to crime, Griffith wondered why the former government chose to spend $800 million to buy a single OPV from BAE Systems in the United Kingdom when it could have acquired vessels worth $400 million from countries like Colombia, South Korea or Israel.

After noting reports BAE allegedly paid kickbacks to government officials in other countries, Griffith said his information was that this country only needed one vessel to patrol its exclusive economic zone and not the three vessels which the former PNM government was seeking to acquire. “That is not true.

That is ole talk!” former prime minister Patrick Manning shouted from his seat. Griffith noted that while there were 19 murders in the first seven days of January, “in the last ten days, there were six murders.”

He said if this pattern was maintained during the year, “we are speaking about 216 murders” in comparison to 549 murders while SAUTT was operational.

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