|Cops target 5 gang ‘contractors’ |
By NALINEE SEELAL Thursday, February 13 2014
THE CRIMINAL Gang and Intelligence Unit of the Police Service has been given a mandate to gather information on five persons suspected of operating legitimate businesses as a cover for criminal gang activities.
The persons are identified in a document which lists names of suspected gang leaders, a copy of which Newsday has received from sources. Investigators believe the five are involved in trafficking of drugs, arms and ammunition and gang-related murders, especially along the East West Corridor.
Sources say the suspects may be linked to “hits” ordered on persons killed recently in such areas as Laventille, East Port-of-Spain, Belmont, Sea Lots and in west Trinidad. In the document, the five suspects are named either as owners or directors of several small businesses which received contracts from State agencies such as the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for projects in mainly urban communities. Their aliases as gangsters are also included.
Investigators are working on the theory that these businesses are used to fund the trafficking of arms and drugs.
In one case, $2M was awarded to a business operated by one of the suspects to construct a pavilion, basketball court and to upgrade a park in Laventille.
The project began in March 2012 but was abandoned by June because of threats to the “initial contractor”. It is unclear if the “initial contractor” is the same as the business named in the document.
According to the document, other contracts issued to suspects were $400,000 to construct a fence, play park and a retaining wall in Sea Lots and $800,000 to refurbish a basketball court and build a community centre in East Port-of-Spain.
On October 7, Minister of National Security Gary Griffith confirmed surveillance of persons believed to be gang leaders operating businesses as fronts, assuring they would be blacklisted from State contracts.
He did not disclose their identities. Contacted yesterday, Griffith said there was an increased effort by law enforcement authorities to flush out gang leaders who were hiding behind businesses.
“We have decided to go after the big fish gang leaders, those are the heads, because too often law enforcement goes after the members, who at most times are young persons who are being used, manipulated and at times killed on the direction of the gang leaders,” he said.