Highly-placed security sources told Newsday the Prime Minister was told large quantities of cocaine were entering this country from Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil and for transhipment to the US. Some of the drugs were also been trafficked locally among gangs.
The Prime Minister was also advised by US intelligence agencies that TT needed to deal swiftly with the illegal trafficking because the country was nearing a crisis as guns were being smuggled into communities to gangs fighting over drug turfs, resulting in persons being killed. There was also concern about the trafficking of drugs to the US. Newsday understands officials from the US Department of Homeland Security. On Wednesday, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan admitted that this country was able to avert a national crisis with the declaration of a state of emergency but he declined to give further details.
He said emergency measures came after the recent seizure of $22 million in cocaine but warned that the operation had deeper implications, and had averted further trafficking of an estimated $100 million in illegal narcotics.
“By making that discovery is to stop an entire drug trafficking operation that used Trinidad and Tobago as a route and trans-shipment point,” Ramlogan said at a security briefing on Wednesday. Last Friday, a 19-year-old man was remanded in custody after appearing before an Arima magistrate charged for possession of an estimated $21.6 million worth of cocaine for the purposes of trafficking. Nathaniel Bowen, of Almond Boulevard, Arima was charged for the possession of 53.926 kilogrammes of cocaine for the purposes of trafficking; with possession of an illegal drug for the purposes of export; and possession of 10.9 grammes of marijuana.
It was alleged that at about 10.40 pm on August 16, officers of the Organized Crime, Narcotics and Firearms Bureau, were on duty at the Piarco International Airport, when they intercepted two suitcases that were checked in to load onto a Carribean Airlines flight destined for New York.
One of the suitcases was a green suitcase which held 25 packets of cocaine all wrapped in a blue blanket. The other suitcase was blue, and also contained 25 packets of cocaine, wrapped in an orange blanket.
Further investigations by the officers led them to detain Bowen, who it was alleged was the person who checked in the suitcases. As a result, the teenager was arrested, and a search was conducted at his home, where officers later discovered the marijuana hidden in a green pouch.
National security sources yesterday said the drug bust, considered to be the largest for the year thus far, was part of a large scale operation into the trafficking of cocaine valued at millions of dollars to the US via flights with domestic passengers.
The source added that the amount of drugs entering this country on a weekly basis for this year was of a larger amount than in previous years and had the capacity to cause a national crisis. It was estimated that cocaine enters this country weekly via air and sea transport.
Due to the state of emergency all borders are now under lock down and immigration and customs officers as well as the Coast Guard have been mandated to carry out new search procedures to ensure that illegal drugs do not enter the country.
Newsday understands that all the ports of entry will now have stringent security checks while at the Piarco International Airport new search procedures are also being adopted.
A source at the Organised Crime, Narcotics and Firearms Bureau yesterday said the investigations surrounding the $22 million cocaine seizure is at a sensitive stage and more persons are to be detained.
The source added that several persons employed at a company which provides services at the airport have been quizzed and key information have been obtained.
This past February $13 million worth of drugs was seized in Arima and Barataria. According to police reports after weeks of surveillance a party of officers raided a house at The Crossings, an upscale gated community of Tumpuna Road, Arima. During the raid the officers dismantled an air-conditioning unit where they discovered 21 packets of cocaine worth $8.4 million.
In the second incident, that same month, officers conducted an exercise at Saw Mill Avenue, Barataria and discovered large travel bags with compressed high grade marijuana with an estimated value of $3.6 million. Then in April officers seized pure cocaine with a street value of $800,000 which was found in a warehouse in Frederick Settlement, Caroni. Two men were subsequently detained.
In March, cocaine valued $600,000 was seized in an abandoned house in Barataria.
Also in March, high grade Arizona marijuana with a street value of more than $18 million was found in a container at the Point Lisas Port. Days after that bust, illegal narcotics, estimated at $30 million, was discovered by officers of the Customs and Excise Division at the Point Lisas Port.