Ambassador: We are delivering for the people – US HAILS $234m DRUG BUST

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

US Ambassador to TT Candace Bond. –

THE US Embassy said its involvement in the investigation that led to the arrest of three people for trafficking over $200 million worth of cocaine is a sign it is delivering to the people.

In a media release last Saturday, police said after searching a black Suzuki SUV, five large black garbage bags containing 148 packages of cocaine, weighing 168kgs, were allegedly found in the trunk. A gun was allegedly found on the floor of the driver’s side.

In a media release on Tuesday the US embassy said personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) assisted the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and the Transnational Organized Crime Unit (TOCU) in the $234 million drug find.

The multi-million-dollar drug bust is one of the largest in the country’s history. In May 2008 six men – two Trinidadians: Victor Sylvester and Shaheed Ali ,and four Venezuelans: Alonzo Valera, Cesar Pereira, Freddie Garcia, and Darwin Gonzales – were sentenced to life in prison for the $700 million Monos Island drug bust.

The men were held after police raided a house at Passy Bay, Monos Island, around 3 am on August 23, 2005. The officers seized 1,749 kg of cocaine, two rifles, three pistols, one revolver, a sub-machine gun and a large cache of ammunition.

Sylvester, a water taxi operator, was arrested aboard his boat near the island, while Ali was found walking on a beach. The four foreign nationals were arrested in the house.

In the release last Saturday, police said three people were held after police received information in March about a large shipment of cocaine destined for the US.

A US Embassy spokesman said the drugs originated from Colombia. The SUV was stopped in the car park of a Chaguaramas hotel after local and international authorities had kept it and the occupants under surveillance for several days.

Saturday’s police release quoted Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher as saying the local police worked closely with both regional and international partners, resulting in the arrest and now charges against one of the three people held.

She said it was the largest land seizure of cocaine ever, with an estimated street value of $234,457,344, and vowed to continue partnering with the country’s law-enforcement counterparts in the US “to wage a forceful and relentless war on the regional drug trafficking networks and those who profit from the illegal drug trade.”

US Ambassador Candace Bond in Tuesday’s release said: “The US is Trinidad and Tobago’s best and most reliable partner in the world, and this seizure and solid arrest are tangible evidence that the US Embassy is delivering for the people of TT, as well as for the people of the US.

“I am proud of the six law enforcement agencies resident at the US Embassy, and the great work they perform at great risk to support Trinbagonian criminal investigations. We are partners in helping make TT safer for all of us who live here.”

SEIZED: The cocaine seized at a hotel in Chaguaramas last week. It is being claimed that the value of the drugs is $234m. –

Also commenting on the partnership was Snr Supt Christopher Paponette of SIU, who highlighted the decades-long partnership between the two countries in tackling crime.

“TOCU and SIU have been working with the US Embassy for many years. We are committed to fighting transnational criminal organizations, and this successful operation shows the strength of what we can achieve when we collaborate with our great partners at the U.S. Embassy,” he was quoted as saying in the US Embassy’s release.

Tuesday’s release was not the first time Bond has spoken of assisting the country and to a larger extent the Caribbean in addressing crime.

In April, during her closing remarks at the end of a three-day seminar on guns in the region hosted by the Caribbean Basin Security Institute (CBSI) and the Caribbean Implementation Agency For Crime And Security (Impacs), Bond detailed some of the US efforts to address gun crimes in the region.

The statement came a week after Caribbean leaders called on the US to do more to curb the influx of guns in the region.

Bond said then: “Through CBSI, the US invested over US$832 million in the Caribbean to reduce illicit firearms trafficking, increase public safety and security, and promote social justice.

“As part of this effort, we continue to co-ordinate law-enforcement programmes with each of your countries and we look forward to working with you to maximise US investments in this area.

“The US has undertaken significant actions to address illicit firearms trafficking in the region.”

Police said on Tuesday La Fillette villager Keon Aberdeen was charged for trafficking and possession of a gun and ammunition after officers received advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Apart from the drug charge, Aberdeen was also charged with possession of a Glock semi-auto pistol fitted with an automatic selector, an extended magazine and 13 rounds of 9 mm ammunition. He was arrested by SIU officers.

The two others he was arrested with were released pending further enquiries, police said.