SSA report links drug-trade to prostitution

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FILE PHOTO. – TTPS

THE Strategic Services Agency (SSA) annual report 2019 lamented that criminals were forcing Venezuelan migrant girls into prostitution, sometimes by forced consumption of illegal drugs.

The report was laid in the Senate on Tuesday along with the SSA reports for 2020 and 2021.

“As the Venezuelan crisis persists, several immigrants are initially smuggled to TT and then forced into labour. Passports and other official documents are confiscated and persons become victims of human trafficking.

“Female minors are forced into the illegal sex trade and forcibly become involved in the consumption of drugs.”

Some criminal organisations, the report said, utilise Ketamine to ensure sexual compliance for unwilling victims.

“Intelligence suggests that some element of the Asian population within TT is actively involved in this practice and collude with locals and possibly Venezuelan nationals.”

The report noted a high local demand for marijuana, especially Venezuelan and Vincentian varieties.

“The allowances for domestic cultivation and possession of marijuana as related to the local decriminalisation of marijuana will undoubtedly change the nature of the drug trade and retail markets.

“Trafficking, which remains a serious crime, is expected to continue and possibly intensify.”

Cocaine trafficking continued in 2019, with the Caribbean still a transshipment route, because of its geographical location near Venezuela, amid tighter Mexico/United States border management.

“Cocaine trafficking, money laundering and the diversion of US currency to facilitate the drug trade continues to occur.

“As the situation in Venezuela continues, it is expected that cocaine trafficking will increase.”

The report said the use of drugs like LSD, ecstasy and other unknown narcotics became more apparent in the local environment in 2019.

“These drugs are sold in pill form at several public events. Several social media videos are being circulated demonstrating the target group as well as the devastating effects of these pills.

“Intelligence suggests that six of the 50 most potent pills worldwide are currently available on the local market.”

More recently, the 2021 report said, “The (current) prolonged socio-political reality of Venezuela continued to allow for the movement of narcotics, humans, contraband items and livestock to and from TT. Despite the decriminalisation of marijuana locally, there remained a high demand for product originating in Venezuela, Colombia, St Vincent and Grenada.”

The 2020 SSA report said some youngsters were using amphetamines, which arrive in skyboxes and from Venezuela.

“Consumption, which initially rose, was not seen again since the closure of our borders.

“It is expected that consumption patterns will re-emerge with the opening of the borders and the resumption of economic activity and local movement increases.”

The local demand for marijuana remained high, the SSA again said.

“Marijuana continued to be imported from Venezuela but, due to the unsteady supply, there was a re-emergence of imports from St Vincent and Grenada. The north coast of Trinidad and Tobago became more popular for these imports.

“Venezuela remains the primary source for narcotics, wildlife and livestock and humans.”

The report reckoned the marijuana trade could worsen gang activities in other Caribbean islands.

The SSA linked the drug-trade to gang murders in TT.

“With the reduction in the issuance of contracts by the State, slow economic activity and, by extension, the shrinkage of the economy, several gangs opted to engage in trafficking.

“Known unaligned traffickers were killed within the last two years, as criminal gangs attempted to monopolise the import and retail of narcotics in some areas.

“In 2020, drug-related murders trended upwards and is expected to continue for 2021.”

Last January, four Chinese nationals were arrested in a Trincity drug bust for the illegal possession of 12 kilogrammes of ketamine worth $8 million. In February 2019, the police cracked a sex and drug trafficking ring, by rescuing 19 under-age South American girls from a Chinese restaurant in Woodbrook and houses in Diego Martin and Westmoorings, and arresting 18 suspects.