Gangsters benefit from contracts through corporations

Over the next few weeks, Guardian Me­dia will be high­light­ing a mul­ti-part in­ves­tiga­tive se­ries that hinges on un­der­world ac­tiv­i­ty and key play­ers that po­lice have been mon­i­tor­ing for a pe­ri­od of time.

This is the first part in the Un­der­world Files se­ries.

Sev­en re­put­ed gang lead­ers in north Trinidad have ben­e­fit­ed from State con­tracts worth close to $6 mil­lion in spite of as­sur­ances by Gov­ern­ment to the con­trary.

 

The mon­ey was paid to al­leged gang lead­ers based in com­mu­ni­ties in the Port-of-Spain to Diego Mar­tin ar­eas over the last three years.

This in­for­ma­tion is con­tained in a con­fi­den­tial eight-page Spe­cial Branch re­port pre­pared in mid-May that was ob­tained as part of a Guardian Me­dia in­ves­ti­ga­tion just a week af­ter Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith blamed the state for plac­ing funds in the hands of gang lead­ers.

He warned that this prac­tice had fu­elled gang wars and con­tributed to an up­surge in homi­cides over the last 15 years.

Grif­fith said: “It is very dif­fi­cult for the Po­lice Ser­vice to try to pro­vide safe­ty and se­cu­ri­ty to a coun­try when the State con­tin­ues to fa­cil­i­tate ma­jor con­tracts for gang mem­bers.

This is not the first time and I hope it could come to an end one day.”

Speak­ing on CNC3’s The Morn­ing Brew, Grif­fith added: “For the last 15 years, homi­cides went in this coun­try from 150-odd to 500 af­ter 15 years be­cause of dif­fer­ent ad­min­is­tra­tions com­ing and go­ing, con­tin­u­ing to give mul­ti-mil­lion con­tracts to gang mem­bers by call­ing them com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and by prob­a­bly as­sist­ing to win an elec­tion.”

Some of the is­sues raised by Com­mis­sion­er Grif­fith are laid bare in the con­fi­den­tial Spe­cial Branch re­port which iden­ti­fies in­di­vid­u­als who ob­tained State con­tracts and were af­fil­i­at­ed with or­gan­ised crime groups.

One re­put­ed gang leader in the re­port from Diego Mar­tin, who goes by the alias “Dog­gy”, ob­tained eight con­tracts be­tween 2015 and 2018 for a con­struc­tion and land­scap­ing com­pa­ny in which he was a di­rec­tor. All the con­tracts were award­ed by the Diego Mar­tin Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion (DM­RC).

Ac­cord­ing to the Spe­cial Branch re­port, he is the leader of the Bagatelle crim­i­nal gang and has been in­volved in ex­tor­tion, traf­fick­ing of drugs and firearms and sus­pect­ed mur­ders.

His first con­tract, award­ed in 2015, was val­ued at $500,000 and was for con­struc­tion of box drains in Blue Bagatelle, Diego Mar­tin. He lat­er land­ed a $200,000 con­tract for road works in Blue Basin.

In 2016, the re­put­ed gang leader was award­ed a con­tract for close to $300,000 to build box drains in Up­per Dibe Road, Long Cir­cu­lar.

One year lat­er, he ob­tained a $200,000 con­tract to re­form and pave the road­way at North West Dri­ve. Last year, he won two con­tracts to pave the road­way at Yel­low Dri­ve, Bagatelle, for $92,820 and $84,600 re­spec­tive­ly.

He was award­ed a con­tract to con­struct box drains in Cra­vat Cir­cu­lar for $164,000 in 2018 and in that same year, al­so got a job to pave roads at Sec­ond Trace and Jean Av­enue Ex­ten­sion for a to­tal of $452,000.

There was lit­tle ev­i­dence that these projects had been com­plet­ed when Guardian Me­dia vis­it­ed the ar­eas.

In fact, at Cra­vat Cir­cu­lar there were bro­ken pipelines spew­ing wa­ter and sev­er­al ar­eas were still in dire need of prop­er box drains.

In three years, the State paid “Dog­gy” al­most $2 mil­lion for re­pairs to roads and to build box drains in Diego Mar­tin.

An­oth­er re­put­ed gang leader in Diego Mar­tin, SR, land­ed three con­tracts in two years for his con­struc­tion com­pa­ny, ac­cord­ing to the Spe­cial Branch re­port.

In 2016, he was award­ed two box drain con­tracts worth $882,899 at Up­per Dibe Road and Uni­ty Gar­dens. In 2018, he got a con­tract to build box drains at Ali Trace which pushed the val­ue of the con­tracts he land­ed to just over $1 mil­lion.

The re­port states that lu­cra­tive con­tracts were award­ed to re­put­ed gang leader with the ini­tials CL, and the alias of a fa­mous Amer­i­can box­er, who op­er­ates around St Paul Street and Des­per­lie Cres­cent in East Port-of-Spain and is as­so­ci­at­ed with the Ras­ta City gang.

Be­tween 2015 and 2018 he land­ed eight con­tracts worth $648,400 through a con­struc­tion com­pa­ny in which he is iden­ti­fied as a di­rec­tor.

These con­tracts were award­ed by the Port-of-Spain City Cor­po­ra­tion.

In 2015 he got at least three la­trine erad­i­ca­tions projects to­geth­er worth $210,500 in the Port-of-Spain North area at John Street, Alexan­der Hill, and Alexan­der Palace.

That same year, he was al­so giv­en a con­tract for drainage and ir­ri­ga­tion at Lovell Place, as well as a con­tract to build roads and bridges for a com­bined cost of $160,700.

A ad­di­tion­al $231,750 in con­tracts was award­ed to the re­put­ed Ras­ta City gang leader in 2018 for drainage and ir­ri­ga­tion work at An­nisette Street and L’eau Place.

The Spe­cial Branch re­port al­so iden­ti­fied a gang leader with Ras­ta City gang who op­er­ates in the Port-of-Spain and Bel­mont ar­eas.

Through a de­vel­op­ment com­pa­ny in which he is list­ed as di­rec­tor, he ob­tained four con­tracts worth just over $400,000.

How­ev­er, the de­tails of those projects were vague, on­ly iden­ti­fy­ing a lo­ca­tion with no spe­cif­ic year giv­en.

 

The Port-of-Spain City Cor­po­ra­tion al­so gave con­tracts to two oth­er re­put­ed gang lead­ers.

One with the ini­tials CB, de­scribed as an­oth­er leader of the Ras­ta City gang, and one with the alias “Big­man” who was de­scribed as a se­nior leader of the Ras­ta City gang.

CB’s com­pa­ny land­ed three con­tracts in 2015 in the Sea Lots area amount­ing to just over $236,000 for la­trine erad­i­ca­tion at Pro­duc­tion Av­enue and Pi­o­neer Dri­ve.

Ras­ta City lieu­tenant, known as Big­man, got four con­tracts which were strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar in the same area be­tween 2015 to 2018 amount­ing to over $650,000.

The re­port al­so iden­ti­fied a man known to the po­lice by the alias “Sprang” was got six con­tracts from the Port-of-Spain City Cor­po­ra­tion be­tween 2015-2018 amount­ing to $1 mil­lion.

Spe­cial Branch Head, ACP Hinds stat­ed at the end of the re­port: “In­tel­li­gence in­di­cates that per­sons of in­ter­est were able to se­cure con­tracts or sub-con­tracts in spite of the Gov­ern­ment’s in­tent to de­ny them such av­enues of fund­ing.”

The re­port con­tin­ued: “Per­sons in au­thor­i­ty with­in the Port-of-Spain and Diego Mar­tin Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tions have been col­lud­ing with crim­i­nal el­e­ments.”

While fear might be a mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor, “there are mu­tu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tions be­tween some gang mem­bers and some per­sons of au­thor­i­ty (names to be as­cer­tained),” it added.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions to iden­ti­fy oth­er re­gion­al cor­po­ra­tions where gang mem­bers have been giv­en con­tracts are con­tin­u­ing. The re­port un­der­scored the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing com­pre­hen­sive records of con­tracts for ac­count­abil­i­ty and trans­paren­cy and to as­sist law en­force­ment.

MP’s de­mand probe in­to claims

Guardian Me­dia con­tact­ed MPs for ar­eas where con­tracts were is­sued to re­put­ed gang lead­ers.

Dar­ryl Smith, the MP for Diego Mar­tin Cen­tral, said when he was chair­man of the Diego Mar­tin Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion every­thing was reg­u­lat­ed and sub-con­trac­tors were usu­al­ly hired through a lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­form com­mit­tee. He called for the mat­ter to be brought to the “pub­lic’s at­ten­tion and in­ves­ti­gat­ed.” Smith, a for­mer Min­is­ter of Sport, was re­moved as a Cab­i­net Min­is­ter af­ter al­le­ga­tions of sex­u­al ha­rass­ment were made against him by a for­mer em­ploy­ee.

Diego Mar­tin/North East MP Colm Im­bert ac­knowl­edged that some of the con­tracts were giv­en to al­leged gang lead­ers in his con­stituen­cy but was quick to point out that the Diego Mar­tin Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion did not have to con­sult or seek the ad­vice of the MP when is­su­ing con­tracts. He sug­gest­ed that the CEO of the cor­po­ra­tion, who has sign­ing au­thor­i­ty, ac­count for this.

“I have heard what you have said, and this must be in­ves­ti­gat­ed. I do not sup­port this at all. This is un­der the purview of the DM­RC. It most cer­tain­ly must be in­ves­ti­gat­ed,” he said. Im­bert holds the Cab­i­net port­fo­lio of Fi­nance Min­is­ter.

Re­put­ed gang lead­ers al­so se­cured con­tracts in Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley’s Diego Mar­tin West con­stituen­cy. Last Feb­ru­ary, Dr Row­ley in­sist­ed that he could not act un­fair­ly against those that were not con­vict­ed of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ty said if these per­sons were en­gag­ing in crime the po­lice need­ed to act.

Port-of-Spain South MP Mar­lene Mc Don­ald did not re­spond to calls for com­ment. She had been sacked from Cab­i­net af­ter Sea Lots res­i­dents Cedric “Burkie” Burke and Ken­roy Dop­well, were in­vit­ed for her swear­ing-in at Pres­i­dent’s House in June 2017. She was re-ap­point­ed as Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion in March 2018.

Stu­art Young, Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West MP said in a What­sApp re­sponse: “I do not get in­volved in the rec­om­men­da­tion of the award of any con­tracts. As MP I cer­tain­ly have not rec­om­mend­ed the award of con­tracts. In fact, I have done the op­po­site and rec­om­mend­ed the can­cel­la­tion of con­tracts where al­le­ga­tions have been made about crim­i­nal as­so­ci­a­tions.” Young al­so holds the Cab­i­net port­fo­lios of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter in the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter.

City May­or un­aware of trend

Port-of-Spain May­or Joel Mar­tinez said he was un­aware re­put­ed gang lead­ers were se­cur­ing con­tracts at the Port-of-Spain City Cor­po­ra­tion with the help of of­fi­cials.

Mar­tinez was re­spond­ed to a con­fi­den­tial Spe­cial Branch re­port ob­tained by Guardian Me­dia in which con­cerns were raised about re­put­ed gang lead­ers land­ing mil­lions in State con­tracts over the last three years.

“This is sound­ing like news to me, I am not aware of this and I am walk­ing around the cor­po­ra­tion every­day. We do not give con­tracts to any­one that did not le­git­i­mate­ly get it,” he said.

Mar­tinez al­so point­ed out that mem­bers of the coun­cil are not privy to who gets con­tracts.

“I make sure the cor­po­ra­tion is run in a prop­er man­ner. Un­less there is smoke then we will have to in­ves­ti­gate. We do not get in­volved in who gets con­tracts and things like that we stay far from,” he said.

Guardian Me­dia al­so reached out to Chair­man of the Diego Mar­tin Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion Su­san Hong for com­ment via text, What­sApp and phone but up to press time she had not re­spond­ed to our re­quests for a com­ment on the sit­u­a­tion.

Reporter: Mark Bassant

 

 

 

 

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