Hinds queries bail for suspects in ketamine drug case

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Fitzgerald Hinds –

MINISTER of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds praised the police for their work in detecting a facility manufacturing 3D guns but also said the police were frustrated at a case where drug-trafficking accused had skipped bail and left this jurisdiction. He was speaking with reporters on Tuesday at a conference held by the regional security network, Caribbean IMPACS, at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, on Tuesday.

“Recently in TT we identified a 3D system and operator manufacturing weapons here.

“Prior to that, our focus would have been on the importation and distribution (of guns) in TT and the region.

“We now have living proof that people are manufacturing them here as well, so it’s a work in progress. It’s an ongoing activity. We have to keep our vigilance, together, and continue to work steadfastly on it and all the challenges that face us.”

Reporters asked about the current state of crime in TT.

Hinds replied, “It is, as I have described it, quite burdensome, quite alarming, particularly for the individual families who would have experienced it, and it is something that continues to gain our attention. This is not altogether new for TT.”

He said certain individuals had demonstrated the capacity to demonstrate very significant levels of violence .

“We believe that the presence and prevalence of illegal firearms exacerbates the situation and this is why the Government continues to focus on improving our techniques to reduce and restrict the importation of illegal firearms.”

He said firearms in TT must be strictly regulated to avoid diversion and misuse.

“Within the last week and a half or two weeks, the police have reported finding substantial numbers of weapons around TT, reflecting their own focus on mopping up these illegal weapons in TT.”

Reporters asked about the unearthing of the illegal manufacture of guns using 3D printers.

Hinds replied, “That investigation continues.

“The police – to their great credit – acting on intelligence received, had been monitoring certain circumstances around it for quite some time.

“I am aware that they did particularly good work to have landed them at that 3D manufacturing location.

“I am in a position to say there is strong reason for commendation, generally and in this particular case. I was more than pleased when they were able to get inside of that.”

He said that investigation was now continuing.

A reporter cited the 3D plant, drugs washed ashore in Guayaguayare and the discovery of a meth lab South Trinidad to ask if Hinds could beef up resources to the police to do more. He cited the 3D printer and meth lab to reply, “Of course.

“Prior to that, last year, the police busted a ketamine manufacturing and distribution operation in Trincity.”

However, he said police officers in that case had got very demoralised when the suspects got bail in court and then fled the country. Hinds said he did not know the situation of the owner of an illegal meth lab in south Trinidad, whom he had heard had got bail.

Criminal Bar Association president Israel Khan on Tuesday clarified to Newsday how judges/magistrates may grant or deny bail to suspects.

“There is a constitutional right to fair and reasonable bail,” Khan said, “But bail can be denied if certain conditions are established.”

These conditions included if the suspect already had a conviction for a similar matter or a pending court case for a similar matter, or a bad criminal record.

“He has a constitutional right to bail but that is subject to the discretion of the judge. That is the general law.”

Newsday asked if a judge had to openly state his/her reasons for denying bail.

“Yes. If a judge is going to deny an accused bail – curtail his constitutional right – he must give reasons.

“In every application for bail the police are represented by the DPP and they can object to bail and argue that the accused ought not to get bail.

“But in the final analysis the judge/magistrate will have to give reasons if they deny bail, or then the accused could go to a higher court and say the judge/magistrate was wrong, right up to the Privy Council.”

On January 29, 2022 four Chinese nationals were arrested for possession of 12.7 kg of ketamine worth $8.6 million.

The police report at the time said ketamine was a date-rape drug.

“Victims may be physically helpless, unable to refuse sex, and unable to remember what happened.

“Police believe that with this seizure, additional inroads have been made into the human-trafficking ring operating in TT, as drugs of this nature are used to prey on unsuspecting victims.

This seizure comes on the heels of the rescue of 27 Venezuelan women on December 31, 2021, when police busted a human-trafficking ring.”