Trini gun dealer ‘abducted’ from Barbados takes legal action

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Gun dealer Brent Thomas, left, with one of his lawyers, Fyard Hosein SC, during a hearing
of a civil lawsuit at the Waterfront, in Port of Spain in May 2023. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB

GUN dealer Brent Thomas has initiated legal action against the Barbadian Government for his “forcible removal” from Barbados by its police force in 2022.

Thomas wants compensation for the “egregious conduct” of the Barbadian authorities as well as several declarations relating to his “arrest, detention and forced repatriation” by the Barbados Police Service.

He is also demanding to know who gave the directive which led to his “unlawful abduction” from a hotel room in Barbados on October 5, 2022, as stated by Justice Devindra Rampersad in his ruling on Thomas’ constitutional challenge in April 2023.

“It is well established that individually or cumulatively, members of the BPS (Barbados Police Service) acted outwith the law and refused to afford our client the protection of the law afforded to him by the Constitution. “The laws of Barbados did not authorise any of the acts of the BPS relative to our client which occurred on October 5, 2022,” Barbados Attorney General Dale Marshall, SC, was told.

Thomas, 61, is the owner of Specialist Shooters Training Centre (SSTC), which has been one of the main suppliers of guns, ammunition and other security equipment to various arms of the State for over 20 years, is represented by attorneys Fyard Hosein, SC, Aadam Hosein, Clay Hackett, of Trinidad and Barbadian attorney Nicholas Jackman.

In his legal action against the State, Thomas also sued over the criminal charges against him which were stayed by Rampersad who condemned the police officers, both locally and from Barbados, for their method of capturing and bringing Thomas back to TT.

The State had also admitted that Thomas’ return to TT was unlawful but has appealed aspects of Rampersad’s ruling. Rampersad is also expected to decide on compensation.

In an address to the Barbadian Parliament on May 9, 2023, Marshall insisted Thomas was not “abducted” from Barbados, but he did admit officers of the BDS had “fallen short of the law” during the operation.

He said neither himself nor Prime Minister Mia Mottley was informed or made aware of any matter involving Thomas, but said that was not unusual. “We simply had no knowledge nor involvement in this matter.

This is not unusual as these matters are operational, and such requests for surveillance by another law enforcement arm for arrests of individuals do not fall within our purview.”

He said on October 4, 2022, an approach was made by the Transnational Organised Crime Unit (TOCU) of the TT police service to IMPACS (the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security), a special law enforcement agency of Caricom.

Marshall said IMPACS contacted a gazetted officer of the BDS who was told Thomas was a person of interest to the TTPS and the subject of several warrants in Trinidad but had eluded the surveillance of TOCU.

Thomas was on his way to visit his US cardiologist and stopped over in Barbados when he was detained at his hotel, handcuffed and handed over to three officers assigned to TT’s Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) on the tarmac of the Grantley Adams International Airport.

It was alleged by the PSB’s head Suzette Martin, now a deputy commissioner, that Thomas intended to travel to Greece.

Marshall said the information received by the TTPS was that Thomas was believed to have been involved in trafficking illicit firearms and explosives. He said the BDS were provided with the arrest warrants.

He detailed Thomas’s arrest at the Courtyard Marriot hotel room by police and his hand-over to TT police at the airport.

Marshall also gave details of the two regional bodies’ involvement in the operation. He said on October 5, 2022, the Regional Security System (RSS) received a request from IMAPAC to transport four Trinidadian police officers from Trinidad to Barbados, which landed at 4.11 pm, and to transport the four officers and Thomas back to Trinidad.

“The co-ordination of the travel to Barbados of the TT Police Service and their return with Mr Thomas to Trinidad was co-ordinated fully by Caricom IMPACS.”

Marshall said he recognises the officers had “fallen short” of the law by acting without an extradition request. “I can confirm that no request was made for the extradition of Mr Thomas. “I, however, cannot associate myself with the description of the actions of the Barbados Police officers as an abduction or as has been elsewhere been described as a kidnapping.”

He further noted in his statement, “It is evident that the Barbados Police Service sought to assist a sister police service in a matter which appeared to them to be of a grave and important nature, and especially so, given the scourge of firearm violence that is now a feature in Barbados and across the Caribbean.”

The Barbadian AG also said if there is a ruling against the actions of the Barbadian police officers, the island’s government would abide by the law. Marshall called for the full implementation of the Caricom Arrest Warrant Treaty, saying that would eliminate these types of incidents going forward.

Thomas’ letter to the Barbadian AG quoted extensively from Justice Rampersad’s findings and Marshall’s statement to the Parliament.

Thomas has asked for details from the Barbadian authorities. Jackman urged the Barbadian AG to provide the information, which, he said the State would be obliged to give if the matter goes to trial Thomas’s legal team wants the names and ranks of the members of the TTPS, or any other party, who made the request and who contacted Caricom IMPACS; the names and/or ranks or designation of the persons (from Barbados) who received this information from members of the TTPS, or any other party; the names and/or ranks of persons of the members of the TTPS, or any other party, who interacted with members of the BPS.

They also want the names of the ministers from TT and Barbados who interacted with each other as well as copies of all correspondence and written communication exchanged between them as well as with any public official or police officer, including those from IMPACS.

They have also asked for the full report Marshall received from the Barbados commissioner of police. Included in the lengthy list of requests are the reports from the RSS, IMPACS and the Ministry of National Security, which Marshall referred to in his address to the parliament.

Thomas also wants the names and ranks of the Barbadian police officers who raided Thomas’ hotel room; a detailed statement outlining the steps taken by the TTPS and BPS to engage the RSS; copies of all written directives from agents of Barbados or a report of oral communication if the directives were not in writing; a copy of the flight plan and manifest of the RSS plane used to transport Thomas from Barbados to Trinidad; a statement containing the name of the pilots and/or flight crew on the RSS plane, the nature and the make of the plane and the location at which the plane is held.