An estimated $15 million of cocaine and marijuana were seized in a Westmoorings apartment and five people were arrested yesterday, following a midday sting operation by the Special Operations Response Team of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
Four of the suspects, two women and two men, were arrested after the SORT unit stormed Apartment 1 at the posh Regent Gardens complex. Another man, who was allegedly trying to get away after realising his cohorts had been held, was arrested after police intercepted the BMW he was driving. One revolver was also seized during the operation.
Investigating officers last night said intelligence had revealed that there was a Venezuelan/Mexican drug cartel link to the seizure. They said locals received a shipment as recently as Monday night through an illegal port of entry and were in the process of preparing the drugs for distribution locally. The suspects are also said to transhipment to the United States as well as locally.
They said the suspects have been operating their illegal activity in drug dens mostly in west Trinidad, including Carenage, Diego Martin and Sea Lots, and have also been assisted by rogue elements of the T&T Police Service and T&T Defence Force.
Social media was littered with images of the operation moments after it happened. Images showed the officers arresting the suspects, one of whom is a relative of a former partner of National Security Minister Stuart Young, collecting the drugs and searching vehicles outside the apartment.
Officers searched two parked Nissan vehicles, an Almera and Juke for further drugs and weapons, removing panelling from the vehicles as they did so. Sniffer dogs were also called in to assist in the search.
Meanwhile, outside the compound, a relative of one of the men arrested told reporters that he was at home in Diego Martin around 9 am, when one of the female suspects came asking for him. She said she then found out via social media that he had been arrested. She broke down in tears when she saw more pictures of her relative bleeding after he was subdued by police.
The police also stopped a vehicle near the apartment complex and interrogated its occupants after putting all of them to kneel on the pavement. They were subsequently released.
The five suspects arrested in connection with the drug bust were said to be in custody at the Four Roads Police Station last night.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith arrived on the scene and announced moments after that “happy hour over.” He said the location of the drug bust only served to show he was making a significant dent in the drug trade.
“What I am doing is cutting the food chain, cutting the drug trade, the more drugs that I seize the more it is they are going to make mistakes. The more mistakes they make, the more I’m going to keep pegging them back,” Griffith told the media.
“Somebody’s going to have to pay the price for this. That is irrelevant to me, my job is cut as many of the illegal drugs that enter this country and if it is it makes life difficult for them ... I intend to cripple the drug trade, I intend to cripple the trade of gangs and others who continue to bring in guns and drugs into this country.”
Griffith explained that the sting was set up after the police received information on Monday about possible drug activity in the area.
The T&T Police Service also dispelled a rumour that one of the women arrested in the drug bust had indeed been working alongside the police in the operation, after a fake press release appearing to be from the TTPS suggested one of the female suspects had worked with them to bring down the drug operation. In a release, the TTPS denied anyone arrested was working with the police and stressed that the arrests were made off the strength of police intelligence.
Yesterday’s bust comes just eight days after another significant bust in Valsayn where 600 kilogrammes of marijuana was seized. One month ago, a significant cache of drugs and guns was also seized at a home at Munroe Road, Chaguanas.
Tenants oblivious to illegal activity
Chairman of the Regent Gardens Residents’ Association David Franco said yesterday that residents of the posh Westmoorings apartment complex had no idea of the illegal drug activity going on there until police raided the compound yesterday.
Speaking to Guardian Media hours after police seized over $15 million in cocaine and marijuana at the complex, Franco said news of the drug bust came as a surprise to him and no resident had raised any real concern about individuals coming in and out of the complex.
He could not say who the owner of the unit which was raided was but also said there was no screening process to obtain an apartment there. He said leasing or rental of the apartments ultimately was up to the owners, but also admitted that the state of the real estate market of late meant owners were no longer as picky about whom to rent or lease to.
“It’s a tough market. It’s not like before when you could wait for someone from Atlantic or some foreigner. The market is tough,” he said.
Franco told Guardian Media that association will likely release a circular asking owners to be more cautious when they are renting or leasing to in future.