$1.5m bail for ex-SSA officials, cop

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A screenshot of pastor Ian Brown during an interview with Power102 FM in March. –

BAIL of $1.5 million has been granted to self-proclaimed spy pastor Ian Albert Ezekiel Brown, another former Strategic Services Agency (SSA) employee and a police sergeant formerly assigned to the Special Operations Response Team (SORT).

Brown, former security supervisor of the SSA Susan Portell-Griffith and Sgt Sherwin Waldrom appeared before Master Shabaana Shah on May 21.

This was hours after they were charged with separate counts of misbehaviour in public office related to the alleged transferring and possession of four prohibited firearms and ammunition on April 29, 2021, at the SORT’s Camp in Cumuto, Wallerfield.

They were each granted $500,000 bail with a surety to cover all the charges. Waldron faces four charges while Brown and Portell-Griffith face two offences.

On May 17, the four were questioned about the transfer of two Sig Sauer MPX firearms, two Sig Sauer 516 rifles with optic and an assortment of ammunition from the TTPS to the SSA.

A release from the police service said Waldron was charged with misbehaviour in public office relating to the transfer of prohibited weapons and ammunition. He was jointly charged with Portell-Griffith for misbehaviour in aiding and abetting in the possession of prohibited weapons and ammunition.

Brown was also charged with misbehaviour in public office relating to the possession of prohibited weapons and possession of ammunition.

The release said in April 2021, an officer prepared correspondence bearing SORT letterhead purporting he was authorised to reassign a quantity of firearms and ammunition from SORT to the guard unit of the SSA.

On May 19 Sunday Newsday reported on the document, dated April 29, 2021, addressed to SSA director Major Roger Best from the now-defunct SORT on the loan of police firearms and ammunition for two Sig Sauer MPX firearms and two Sig Sauer 516 rifles, along with three magazines and 90 rounds of ammunition each.

It said permission was given for the guns and ammunition to be temporarily assigned for official use to six named officers attached to the SSA guard unit.

The police release said the firearms and ammunition in question were previously issued to SORT in December 2018 and recorded in official records.

“It is further alleged that the firearms and ammunition were later handed over to an SSA official, but were never handed over to the guard unit at the SSA.

“An audit was subsequently conducted of the firearms and ammunition issued to the SSA and the firearms and ammunition were never accounted for or located,” the release said.

It said a team of investigators from elite units of the police service, “under the astute guidance” of DCP Intelligence and Investigations Suzette Martin, together with legal officer Zaheer Ali, made enquiries into several reports of misbehaviour arising out of the audit.

Investigations, the release said, were ongoing.

The three were back in custody on the evening of May 20, after investigators again met with Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC.

The laying of charges came after the three and Best, who has been fired as SSA director, were taken into custody on May 16.

Best was fired on May 18. This was announced in a statement from the Ministry of National Security which said Minister Fitzgerald Hinds had advised acting President Nigel de Freitas to terminate Best’s appointment as director of the elite agency with immediate effect.

Best and the others were released later that night.

In early March, the Prime Minister, as head of the National Security Council, recalled retired Brig Gen Anthony Phillips-Spencer, ambassador to the US, to replace Best.

Dr Rowley announced Best’s suspension shortly after returning from meeting with the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other top US intelligence officials in Washington, DC. Rowley cited an impending threat to national security as the reason for the decision.

In mid-March, Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher dismissed Brown as a special reserve police officer.

Thursday’s arrests followed a two-and-a-half-month-long investigation into a wide range of allegations against SSA agents and a series of interviews, including one with former CoP Gary Griffith.

The homes of Best and the others were simultaneously searched shortly afterwards. Investigators searched for electronic devices for examination by the police cyber and social media unit of any communications data and stored data.

On May 19, Rowley told reporters the scandal at the organisation had blindsided the government.

Speaking with the media at Piarco Airport after a trip to Ghana and India, Rowley said the government had acted quickly and decisively nevertheless.

Rowley said little about what had been found in the ongoing audit into the agency, adding, “We expect that we will rectify it and return the agency to its purpose.”

Sunday Newsday also reported that the police have initiated an audit of the regiment’s Cumuto base.