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Police advised: Don’t pay no ransom

BY JADA LOUTOO Wednesday, May 14 2014

DESPITE being advised of the risks involved in paying a ransom demand, the family of murdered Xtra Foods chief executive officer Vindra Naipaul-Coolman went ahead and paid $122,000 to her kidnappers in hopes of securing her release.

The decision to pay the money was taken by Naipaul-Coolman’s family, Constable Mahadeo Singh testified yesterday.

Singh of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit, was assigned to guide and advise Naipaul-Coolman’s family after her abduction on December 19, 2006. He began his testimony yesterday at the trial of the 12 men accused of Naipaul-Coolman’s murder.

On December 19, 2006, Naipaul-Coolman, 52, was kidnapped from the driveway of her Lange Park, Chaguanas, home. A ransom was eventually paid, but she was not freed.

Her body was never found.

He said depending on the situation, he would advise that no ransom be paid until the family received a proof of life.

None was received in Naipaul-Coolman’s case. Singh said the decision to pay the ransom was not for the police to make, but for the family, as it was “their money”.

“Whatever the family wished, that is their money. It is not for the AKU to make decisions for the family,” he added.

According to Singh, he advised that one of the risks of paying a ransom was that there was no guarantee there would be a return of the victim.

In Naipaul-Coolman’s kidnapping, Singh said he did not know who took the decision to pay a ransom as he was only told by Anand Naipaul of the decision they took to do so. Singh said he was on duty on December 19, 2006, at the AKS’ Port-of-Spain office when at about 10.15 pm he received a call, and left for 742 Radix Road, Lange Park, Chaguanas.

He said he met Ryan Naipaul who took him to a room inside the house, and introduced him to Rennie Coolman. Singh said he spoke with Coolman and advised him accordingly, and based on their conversation, the policeman said he then left for Xtra Foods Supermarket at Grand Bazaar with Ryan Naipaul, at about 10.45 pm.

At the supermarket, Singh was introduced to Anand Naipaul. The three spoke and sometime after midnight, Anand Naipaul received a call on his mobile phone from his sister’s kidnappers. Singh said the male caller asked Naipaul: ‘How much money do you have?” to which Naipaul replied he had $122,000.

A second call came in about an hour later, and the male voice asked Naipaul: “How far you coming from?” to which Naipaul responded, “From the mall.”

Singh said the caller told Naipaul he would call back. During the third call, the caller gave specific instructions to Naipaul to “leave with the money” and provide a cellphone contact for the person bringing the money and the make, colour and registration number of the vehicle making the drop-off.

Instructions were also given for the person to drive to the highway by the University of the West Indies, St Augustine.

Singh said Naipaul did as he was told, and provided the cellphone contact, make and registration number of the vehicle to be used in the drop-off.

The phone number was that of Naipaul’s, 680-2666, and a silver Suzuki Liana PBZ 30 was used by brothers Farouk and Abid Nabbie, who dropped off the $122,000 ransom payment.

The Nabbies left the Xtra Foods supermarket with the money in a black garbage bag.

They returned at about 5.45 am after making the drop, Singh said.

According to Singh, the Nabbies were instructed to drop the money off by the traffic lights at Mausica, Arima.

‘They returned without the money,” the policeman said. He and the Naipaul brothers then returned to Radix Road.

Under cross-examination, Singh said no surveillance was done of the drop-off nor was the ransom money marked by police.

“If the family say they don’t want the serial numbers recorded there is nothing the police can do,” he said, although he did say he did advise the family to do so.

“In the AKU we have a duty to protect and guide the family how to go about it (procedures during kidnappings) in the most cautious way,” he said.

“The police cannot override the family demands, or requests,” he added, adding that the police had no control as to what took place at the drop-off.

Singh also admitted that he did not know if anyone approached the telecommunication service providers to find out from where the kidnappers’ calls originated, although he said they could have assisted.

Singh will return tomorrow to complete his testimony at the trial which is being heard in the Port-of-Spain Second Criminal Court.

Justice Malcolm Holdip is presiding over the trial.

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