Oropouche East MP calls for extortion unit in the police

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal – File photo by Angelo Marcelle

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is calling for the establishment of an Extortion Unit within the TT Police Service.

He made the comment after the murder of businessman Kelvin Mohammed whose family believes he may have been killed for refusing to pay “protection money.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Moonilal said Mohammed’s death exposed how dangerous and widespread extortion had become in TT.

Moonilal said the circumstances leading to Mohammed’s death were not uncommon in TT.

“There are increasing reports from various areas of the country of gangsters extorting monthly sums from business operators in return for not murdering or kidnapping them.”

“Business leaders are reporting that some extortionists are demanding up to $30,000 a month in exchange for protection.”

Moonilal repeated comments he made during the budget debate last October adding that a highly specialised and multi-divisional unit was required to deal with the offence.

“What is needed is police officers with specialised training dealing with gangs, setting up sting operations, accessing special equipment eg to tape conversations, video tape transactions, access to witness protection programme and access to foreign assistance to obtain hard evidence to prosecute.”

He said the government should also amend the law to create a specific offence titled “extortion by gang members” which should carry a penalty of significant jail time.

“The law needs to be urgently amended to deal with this urgent and significant threat to our business sector, especially in these times when the present government cannot be relied upon to create or protect jobs. The business sector is crucial to the survival of our economy and its future and needs urgent protection from this growing scourge.”

Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, Intelligence and Investigation, Curt Simon yesterday said police were taking reports of extortion “very seriously” as officers had been sensitised about how to take and deal with reports of that nature.

He added, “We have our specialised units reacting to the report and to the intelligence that we are gathering as it relates to demanding money by menaces, commonly called extortion.”

Nine per cent of respondents in a recent business survey presented by Ernst and Young and the American Chamber of Commerce last month said either they or their company had been threatened or coerced to pay “protection money” to avoid harm or damage to their business through criminal activities in the past year.