Trinidad: Police raid seven Gulf View mansions

Trinidad: Police raid seven Gulf View mansions
Members of SORT conduct a search at the home of south businessman Simon Alexander at Penny Avenue, Gulf View, La Romaine. © KRISTIAN DE SILVA
Members of SORT conduct a search at the home of south businessman Simon Alexander at Penny Avenue, Gulf View, La Romaine. * KRISTIAN DE SILVA

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Re­sponse Team (SORT) po­lice of­fi­cers raid­ed sev­en man­sions in the posh res­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ty of Gulf View, La Ro­maine, yes­ter­day, break­ing down doors and pre­vent­ing home­own­ers from en­ter­ing their premis­es.

The raids prompt­ed cries of po­lit­i­cal vic­tim­i­sa­tion, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and vic­tim­i­sa­tion by home­own­ers who called on Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith to is­sue a state­ment.

How­ev­er, se­nior sources said one man who was hid­ing on one of the prop­er­ties dur­ing the raids was ar­rest­ed.

The first raid took place at 5.50 am at the Pen­ny Av­enue home of Si­mone Alexan­der, the own­er of Al­lied Home In­dus­tries Lim­it­ed. Af­ter two hours of­fi­cers left emp­ty-hand­ed, but they con­tin­ued raids in town­hous­es and man­sions be­long­ing to oth­er busi­ness own­ers, in­clud­ing SM Jaleel and Com­pa­ny CEO Aleem Mo­hammed.

Re­tired oil work­er Ravi Di­nanath said he got up as usu­al for his morn­ing walk when he saw the po­lice at Alexan­der’s home. The street had been blocked off and Di­nanath said he took a de­tour and con­tin­ued on his busi­ness think­ing the po­lice were do­ing their du­ties. “I had no idea they would come to my home next. Some­time lat­er, when I walked back to my yard, I saw about a dozen po­lice in the back. They did not al­low me to en­ter the prop­er­ty. The po­lice had face masks and gog­gles. I nev­er imag­ined any­thing like this would ever hap­pen to me,” Di­nanath said.

He added that it was on­ly when me­dia cam­eras ar­rived he was al­lowed back in­to the house. Di­nanath said his wife Lelawa­tee was held at gun­point in a room and she be­gan suf­fer­ing an asth­ma at­tack. “The po­lice were ag­gres­sive and they asked for my son who was at work. They nev­er showed a war­rant. They nev­er ex­plained what they want­ed with him. It is un­fair that I worked so hard and now in my re­tire­ment, I can­not en­joy my life,” Di­nanath said.

Asked whether he planned to take le­gal ac­tion, Di­nanath said he had no mon­ey to hire a lawyer.

Sources close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion ex­plained to Guardian Me­dia that they had re­ceived in­for­ma­tion about a high-risk sus­pect in the area and dur­ing one of their search­es a man who was found hid­ing was tak­en in­to cus­tody

The se­nior source ex­plained that in this in­stance, if you are pur­su­ing a sus­pect there is no need to ob­tain a war­rant to en­ter premis­es where the sub­ject is sus­pect­ed to be hid­ing.

The source al­so ex­plained that an in­for­mant in­di­cat­ed that a sus­pi­cious pack­age had been dropped off at a home in Gulf View on Thurs­day night and the search­es were al­so con­nect­ed to this in­ci­dent.

The in­for­mant, who was not too fa­mil­iar with the area, gave them a de­scrip­tion of a house of a par­tic­u­lar colour, but of­fi­cers were still not suc­cess­ful in find­ing the house—al­though they en­tered homes that were of sim­i­lar colour and de­sign.

Mean­while, Suresh Ramd­han, own­er of Gopauls Elec­tron­ics and Princess Cos­met­ics, claimed his home was raid­ed with­out a war­rant. Say­ing the raids were a po­lit­i­cal witch hunt, Ramd­han said he was ap­palled that the po­lice would break down doors and raid the premis­es of law-abid­ing cit­i­zens. Ramd­han, of Seav­iew Park­way, said he was not at home when the po­lice ar­rived and or­dered his sis­ter-in-law to open the house.

Ramd­han said he has been do­ing busi­ness in San Fer­nan­do for over 40 years. “I am a hard-work­ing man and I feel as if my right to pri­va­cy and en­joy­ment of my prop­er­ty has been in­fringed,” Ramd­han told Guardian Me­dia.

“Peo­ple are look­ing at me as if I am a crim­i­nal. The po­lice treat­ed me as if I am a crim­i­nal. It is trau­ma­tis­ing for me and my fam­i­ly.”

The busi­ness­man said he did not know if his home was now bugged and if the po­lice had plant­ed sur­veil­lance de­vices in his premis­es. He al­so claimed the po­lice used a sledge­ham­mer and broke down the front doors of a house owned by a re­tired Na­pari­ma Girls’ High School teacher Minty Ish­mael.

Ish­mael lives in a se­nior cit­i­zen home and her daugh­ter comes to the premis­es reg­u­lar­ly to clean it. Ramd­han said Ish­mael’s home was left un­se­cured by the po­lice af­ter their search.

Res­i­dents said the raids were not or­gan­ised and seemed to be a “botched ex­er­cise,” as the po­lice seemed un­clear and un­cer­tain about what they were do­ing.

Up to 2 pm, res­i­dents were seen sit­ting out­side on their bal­conies and pa­tios as po­lice of­fi­cers made con­stant pa­trols.

Com­mis­sion­er Grif­fith yes­ter­day re­ferred all ques­tions to his com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­part­ment.

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