The long-running Drug Sou-Sou saga took yet another turn yesterday after founder Kerron Clarke claimed that while there are several businesses similar to his across the country, for some reason the DSS has found itself continuously targeted by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
“I have suffered loss of business and experienced discrimination by underhand institutions. What am I doing? What am I doing wrong? That’s the major question I’m asking,” Clarke said during a press conference at the Port-of-Spain offices of his attorneys.
Clarke, who didn’t take questions from the media, also expressed bewilderment that police officers who allegedly stole money from his business had faced no criminal charges to date.
He said despite there being evidence of police wrongdoing, his business, which he claimed only engages in legal activities, continues to be victimised by the TTPS.
“It’s not a crime for anyone to take their hard-earned money and place it anywhere they choose to, upon their free time,” Clarke said.
Clarke also denied claims that he sought a meeting with Police Commissioner Gary Griffith seeking to provide information about the involvement of police officers in the DSS in exchange for immunity.
“I’m not seeking asylum anywhere, nor have I agreed to seek asylum to pass any information anywhere,” the DSS founder said.
According to Clarke, it was the police service who was attempting to encourage him to give up names but said he didn’t have any information to give.
He claimed a recorded phone call with Griffith, a police officer and Guardian Media Lead Investigative Editor Mark Bassant was evidence of that. He, however, did not play or produce the recording during his statement.
Clarke accused Bassant of giving inaccurate information in a report that claimed he was willing to exchange information for immunity.
“Mr Bassant, who I had a great respect for, has now sought to vacate himself from that conversation - which has also placed a target on my back. We have proof of the conversation, so he cannot come out and say he wasn’t part of it, or that the information I have given is false,” Clarke claimed.
Guardian Media was not invited to yesterday’s press conference.
Bassant, Griffith respond
In response, however, GML investigative journalist Bassant strongly denied Clarke’s claims. He said the DSS owner contacted a source of his seeking to organise a meeting with himself and the Police Commissioner. Clarke expressed a willingness to provide information in exchange for immunity from possible charges and police protection, Bassant insisted.
“The source reached out to me and asked if I could facilitate that with the Commissioner of Police, and I called the Commissioner and told him what was suggested and the Commissioner said if he (Clarke) has information, he was willing to listen and meet with him,” Bassant said.
“It was a meeting. It wasn’t anything about being caught on tape but rather a discussion to find out how he would assist with the investigation, as the conversation would have shown at length.”
According to Bassant, he arranged the four-person call with Clarke, a source and Griffith because the DSS founder claimed he trusted him (Bassant) to make the necessary arrangements.
“There are Whatsapp messages and calls that he (the source) would have made to Mr Clarke and he would have spoken to Mr Clarke, and Mr Clarke was willing to give information, of certain things that were put in place. I was merely trying to facilitate that,” Bassant added.
Saying he always remains objective, Bassant said it was not initially his intention to write a story about Clarke’s willingness to talk with police but he only did so in response to another media outlet’s article which told a different story of the events. He labelled that story as misleading.
Police Commissioner Griffith backed up Bassant’s claims yesterday, saying Clarke came in confidence claiming that he would only provide him (Griffith) with information.
“He (Clarke) also planned to send CDs and recordings and information of the police officers and soldiers involved in the DSS, and that same night, a legal officer from the Defence Force met with him and caused him to change his mind,” Griffith said.
Griffith also accused the Trinidad Express of having an agenda.