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(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — After paying a US$90,000 ransom, which included 10 cellphones, gold jewellery and several boat engines, five fishermen from Morne Diablo, Penal, finally returned to their families yesterday.
Lynton Manohar, 35, Jason O’Brian, 38, Jagdesh Jude Jaikaran, 16, Brandon Arjoon, 28 and Ricky Rambharose, 35 arrived in a pirogue at Morne Diablo around 7 am. Their families were naturally overjoyed at their safe return.
A source who requested anonymity said the ransom was paid in two parts and the abduction of the group was orchestrated by a man with Trinidadian links.
“It was organised by a South Trinidadian man with underworld links who allegedly brings in guns, drugs, honey and other illegal cargo from the Venezuelan mainland,” the source said.
The first ransom of US$30,000 was paid in exchange for the life of Jerry O’Brian. He was the first to be released and returned home last Wednesday. O’Brian never gave the media an interview about his ordeal but a source said he was sent to organise the rest of the ransom. His family was unwilling to speak to the media on his return home saying they could not release information because the fishermen would be tortured based on stories carried in the press.
The day after the fishermen were kidnapped, Manohar’s family sold their boat engines and a van to raise the US$30,000. That was paid to the Venezuelans via an intermediary. Last week a US$60,000 ransom was arranged and this was sent to Venezuela last Saturday. The men were supposed to have come home then but the kidnappers said they needed to make sure that the money was not counterfeit.
When the T&T Guardian visited the fishermen yesterday they were still in police custody at the Siparia Health Facility. They were unwilling to speak and hid from the media. Jagdesh looked depressed but the other fishermen appeared to be well fed and unharmed. They spent several hours at the health facility where police officers used private cars to keep them away from the glare of the media.
A source who requested anonymity said the six fishermen were fishing and shrimping when they were accosted by six boatloads of Venezuelans carrying AK47 and AR15 guns.
The Venezuelans were part of a pirate gang which frequents the Manamo River in Venezuela. The leader has scores of young hungry Venezuelans under his charge who earn their livelihoods by charging a tax to anyone who enters their river space.
Interpol has received information about the gang, which has been working with Venezuela’s Guardia Nacional.
Officers of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad have taken detailed statements from the fishermen and are working with the Venezuelan authorities.
Over the past year, several fishermen from Cedros, Icacos, Moruga and Penal have been kidnapped and ransoms paid.
On January 12, Kenrick Morgan, 17 and his cousin Kendell Singh, 24, were kidnapped while fishing in the sea off Gran Chemin, Moruga. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of US$40,000 which was later changed to US$20,000 and five iPhones. Sources say they were also released.