Category: News

Govt & Police united against crime

National Security Minister, Stuart Young yesterday declared that Government and the police are united to win the war against crime.

Young made this declaration at a graduation ceremony for 199 municipal police officers at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port of Spain.

His comments came 24 hours after police killed three men in a shootout in Arima. Later on Tuesday, police seized a cache of stolen vehicles, drugs, arms and ammunition in Pleasantville. Young said he and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith have been in office for the last four months and during that time, “I don’t think there has been a single civic-minded citizen in TT who can deny that there has been a resurgence in our policing.”

Contrary to claims being made by some people, Young said, “Commissioner Griffith and I are working extremely well together.”

He declared, “This is the marker to send that signal to those out there who are trying to drive a wedge between the executive and the Police Service: not under my watch.”

He identified some of those people as current, failed and wannabe politicians.

He told his audience, “The issues of national security and the particulars of what we are doing are not for public consumption. We have enough difficulty with the bad guys out there, they don’t need to know what we are doing.”

However, he reiterated Griffith’s mantra that “intelligence-driven operations is now the order of the day.”

Saying all of the country’s national security agencies are working more closely together, Young said criminals should be warned: “Touch one, touch all.”

He and other security heads are awake at 3 am while operations are under way and interact as equals, with him providing policy and resources, he said.

“That is not a figment of my imagination. That’s real.”

Contrary to what people think of him, Young said, “I am a very quiet, meticulous and thoughtful individual. I don’t waste words.” Nor will he be “drawn into the desire for bacchanal and the desire for confusion.”

As someone who does not need to “run down the spotlight and grab the attention,” Young said, “In the coming months, you will see more and more results, and you will not hear me talking about them.”

He pointed out that his silence “is not to be taken as an acceptance of some of the stupidity that is being spoken out there.”

Young praised the new municipal police officers as “our front line in the communities” and told them their efforts will be key to what can be done on the ground in every single community to maintain law and order.

Young also urged the new officers not to fall prey to corruption and uphold the oaths they had taken.

Rural Development and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein said this batch of officers represented a promise by the Prime Minister to have 200 municipal police officers in Port of Spain and 100 officers in the other 13 local government corporations. By mid-January or February, he said, another batch of officers will graduate from the municipal police training academy.

Govt will ensure due process for Sandals

Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles is seeking to assure citizens that the Sandals project will go through due process.

He made the statement in response to questions posed to him about the role of the assembly in negotiations and the construction of the proposed Sandals resort.

He said in a press release, “Whilst the Sandals Resort project has the potential to significantly transform the social and economic landscape of Tobago, it is important that the population rest assured that the Government of TT intends to comply with the laws of the land and in this regard, it will ensure that due process takes place.

“I also want to assure the people of Tobago that the Tobago House of Assembly continues to respect and abide by the Environment Management Authority and its processes. As an administration, we remain committed to ensure that Tobago derives optimum benefits from this project.”

After last Thursday’s public meeting at the Scarborough Library featuring comments by Afra Raymond, former president of the Joint Consultative Council, and others, Charles said he was compelled to make a statement.

“The primary focus of the lecture seemed aimed at discussing some of the implications of the non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Government of TT and Sandals Resorts International, 2000 Inc dated October 10, 2017.

“While I appreciate the speakers’ interest in the project as citizens of TT and their desire to see that this country gets a fair and reasonable return from the Sandals project, I wish to remind the public that the MoU that was being discussed on Thursday is not a legally-binding document and leaves room for further discussions and negotiations before a final legally-binding agreement is reached… Every single item listed in the MoU will be open for discussion when the Government’s negotiating team meets with the Sandals team,” he said.

BP invests $12bn in two new energy projects

An agree­ment be­tween BP T&T (bpTT) and the Gov­ern­ment will see the en­er­gy com­pa­ny in­vest­ing some US$1.8 bil­lion (TT$12 bn) in two new en­er­gy projects.

The agree­ment, signed last Fri­day, en­tailed the ex­ten­sion of the South East Ga­le­o­ta Ex­plo­ration & Pro­duc­tion li­cence and will al­so see bpTT be­gin the off­shore in­vest­ments of the Cas­sia Com­pres­sion Project as well as the Mat­a­pal Gas Project. The Mat­a­pal Gas Project is ex­pect­ed to de­vel­op the gas re­sources dis­cov­ered by bpTT in 2017.

The sign­ing of the agree­ment was wit­nessed by Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley, Min­is­ter of En­er­gy and En­er­gy In­dus­tries Franklin Khan and Re­gion­al Pres­i­dent of bpTT Claire Fitz­patrick, at the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter in St Clair.

The sign­ing of the agree­ment con­clud­ed the first phase of this coun­try’s ne­go­ti­a­tions with bpTT for fu­ture gas pro­duc­tion and projects in T&T.

Min­is­ter of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Min­is­ter in the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter Stu­art Young, Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, Glob­al Up­stream Re­gions at BP William Lin, Head of Plan­ning and Com­mer­cial Fi­nance at bpTT Richard Eaton and bpTT’s Man­ag­ing Coun­sel, Wendy Fae Thomp­son were al­so present at the sign­ing.

Back in March, Mc­Der­mott In­ter­na­tion­al, Inc an­nounced that it was award­ed a de­tailed en­gi­neer­ing and long lead pro­cure­ment ser­vices con­tract from bpTT for the Cas­sia C Com­pres­sion Plat­form.

Mc­Der­mott’s was al­so award­ed the con­tract for the en­gi­neer­ing, pro­cure­ment, con­struc­tion, in­stal­la­tion and com­mis­sion­ing (EP­CIC) con­tract for the An­gelin project by bpTT last year.

The Cas­sia C Com­pres­sion project, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion on Mc­Der­mott’s web­site, in­cludes a new un­manned com­pres­sion plat­form for the ex­ist­ing Cas­sia com­plex. The fa­cil­i­ty is ex­pect­ed to pro­vide gas com­pres­sion to the Cas­sia com­plex through a new bridge con­nect­ed to Cas­sia B.

Cas­sia C is bpTT’s third Cas­sia plat­form.

Griffith – 500 homicides an unacceptable milestone

T&T’s mur­der toll reached the 500 mark yes­ter­day. How­ev­er, de­spite the alarm­ing­ly high fig­ure—the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice said that the mur­der rate has de­creased be­tween the pe­ri­od Au­gust to De­cem­ber.

Do­mes­tic and gang-re­lat­ed in­ci­dents ac­count­ed for the most amount of mur­ders in the coun­try this year

Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice (CoP) Gary Grif­fith said yes­ter­day that reach­ing 500 homi­cides was a most un­ac­cept­able mile­stone for any coun­try. The high­est mur­der toll in T&T—550—was record­ed in 2008, while the sec­ond high­est fig­ure—509—was record­ed in 2009. Last year, 2017, the mur­der toll stood at 495.

“Reach­ing 500 homi­cides is the most un­ac­cept­able mile­stone that any coun­try can ac­quire. If any­one thinks that it can be changed to 250 in a few months, they are wrong.”

Over the last four months, how­ev­er, he said there has been a grad­ual de­crease in homi­cides in com­par­i­son to the same pe­ri­od last year, “with an over ten per cent re­duc­tion”.

“But I do not in any way see this as suc­cess. It is mea­sured progress and the di­rec­tion to dras­ti­cal­ly re­duce vi­o­lent crime.

“The end re­sult af­ter putting im­mense re­sources and poli­cies both in law en­force­ment and so­cial av­enues to turn youths away from vi­o­lent crime can be 150. But the last time we saw that was over 18 years ago. Things have changed. To get back there, all as­pects of gang ac­tiv­i­ty must be to­tal­ly elim­i­nat­ed. That would take sev­er­al years. 250 per an­num can be an at­tain­able goal in the near fu­ture but it takes a mas­sive turn­around,” Grif­fith said.

Poor Detection Rate

Whilst the over­all de­tec­tion rate in the coun­try is very poor, po­lice said the Port-of-Spain Di­vi­sion (POSD) saw a 125 per cent in­crease in its de­tec­tion rate this year. How­ev­er, mur­ders in that di­vi­sion have gone up from 36 to 42 over the cor­re­spond­ing pe­ri­ods for the years 2017 and 2018. In the South­ern Di­vi­sion, from Jan­u­ary 1 to De­cem­ber 8, 2018, there was a sev­en per cent de­crease in homi­cides from 70 in 2017 to 65 in 2018.

• In May 2017 there were 49 mur­ders in T&T while in May 2018 there were 59 mur­ders–a 20 per cent in­crease.

• In June 2017 the mur­ders record­ed were 33 and in June 2018, 44—again, an in­crease of 33 per cent.

• In Ju­ly 2017 there were 30 mur­ders and in Ju­ly 2018, 44—a 47 per cent in­crease.

• In Au­gust 2017 there were 43 mur­ders as com­pared to 41 this year Au­gust, which rep­re­sent­ed a five per cent de­crease.

• In Sep­tem­ber 2017 there were 48 mur­ders, while in the cor­re­spond­ing pe­ri­od in 2018 there were 37 mur­ders—a 30 per cent de­crease.

•In Oc­to­ber 2017 there were 40 mur­ders, while in Oc­to­ber 2018 there were 33 mur­ders—a 21 per cent de­crease.

• From Au­gust to No­vem­ber 2017 the mur­der toll was 166. How­ev­er, un­der Grif­fith’s watch, the fig­ure de­creased to 157 in 2018.

The ini­tia­tives

In Oc­to­ber dur­ing an in­ter­view, Grif­fith told the me­dia the coun­try was on the path to hav­ing over 600 mur­ders record­ed for the year. He, how­ev­er, said that with the ini­tia­tives that he had im­ple­ment­ed, there was a re­duc­tion in killings. He said then that there were over 70 oth­er ini­tia­tives he in­tend­ed to spear­head with­in a 12-month pe­ri­od.

He said he hoped for the coun­try’s mur­der toll to re­turn to an “ac­cept­able lev­el” of 150 per year.

Grif­fith did note that since Au­gust, the homi­cide rates had been de­creas­ing on a month-to-month ba­sis.

• One of the ini­tia­tives Grif­fith im­ple­ment­ed was Op­er­a­tion Strike Back where scores of peo­ple have been ar­rest­ed so far dur­ing an­ti-crime ex­er­cis­es on var­i­ous of­fences in­clud­ing mur­ders, rob­bery with vi­o­lence, arms and am­mu­ni­tion, and nar­cotics.

• An­oth­er ini­tia­tive was the Emer­gency Re­sponse Unit where a new fleet of po­lice ve­hi­cles was despatched at strate­gic lo­ca­tions through­out the coun­try, in­clud­ing in ar­eas iden­ti­fied as “hot spots”.

A se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer, at the North East­ern Di­vi­sion, who wished not to be iden­ti­fied ad­mit­ted that there are a few chal­lenges that exist still but as­sured that po­lice of­fi­cers in the di­vi­sion were “go­ing that ex­tra mile in crack­ing down on all crim­i­nals and crim­i­nal­ly-in­clined ac­tiv­i­ties”.

“I re­mem­ber when there used to be a mur­der or two a day in Laven­tille and Mor­vant, now days pass by and no mur­ders…that by it­self shows you the suc­cess of po­lice of­fi­cers’ du­ties,” the se­nior of­fi­cer said.

Petrotrin lands identified for ex-workers

Gov­ern­ment has iden­ti­fied some of Petrotrin’s lands in the South for de­vel­op­ment and trans­fer of own­er­ship to for­mer Petrotrin work­ers, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley an­nounced yes­ter­day.

The land of­fer is the lat­est con­ces­sion Gov­ern­ment is giv­ing for­mer work­ers fol­low­ing the No­vem­ber 30 ces­sa­tion of Petrotrin op­er­a­tions, clo­sure of its re­fin­ery and start-up of re­struc­tured en­ti­ties on De­cem­ber 1.

Re­ply­ing in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day to Op­po­si­tion queries on what would be done to help work­ers, Row­ley not­ed the $2.7 bil­lion pay­out to work­ers, tax-free con­ces­sions on ben­e­fits up to $500,000 and oth­er de­vel­op­ments.

He said Petrotrin is one of the largest en­ti­ties with state land and Gov­ern­ment was mak­ing por­tions of those lands (all over the south-west and south­ern penin­su­la) “….iden­ti­fied for de­vel­op­ment for trans­fer in own­er­ship to Petrotrin work­ers who can ben­e­fit from such.”

Row­ley said he’ll make a state­ment in Par­lia­ment on that soon. He said Gov­ern­ment’s so­cial sup­port sys­tems are fo­cus­ing ex­ces­sive­ly on south­ern ar­eas to deal with hard­ships oc­cur­ring, as Gov­ern­ment knew those ar­eas would be hit by the Petrotrin changes.

But even as Gov­ern­ment was putting mon­ey in to help those in dis­tress, he added, some in the com­mu­ni­ty were try­ing to “get more than their fair share.”

Re­port­ing on the re­cent Cari­com sum­mit on the Sin­gle Mar­ket and the Econ­o­my (CSME), Row­ley de­tailed plans to bring new im­pe­tus to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the CSME which mem­ber states will move to­wards ful­ly by 2021 – and for which T&T will have to make leg­isla­tive changes to al­low Cari­com na­tion­als cer­tain rights and ben­e­fits here.

He said T&T would be re­quired to un­der­take a com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the rel­e­vant leg­isla­tive (Im­mi­gra­tion Caribbean Com­mu­ni­ty Skilled Na­tion­al Act) and ad­min­is­tra­tive frame­works gov­ern­ing the en­try and stay of Cari­com na­tion­als, as well as ben­e­fits to be ac­cord­ed to them.

The amend­ments will have to cater to the ex­pand­ed cat­e­gories of skilled Cari­com na­tion­als – re­cent­ly ex­pand­ed to in­clude se­cu­ri­ty guards, beau­ti­cians, bar­bers and agri­cul­tur­al work­ers – the Recog­ni­tion of Skills Cer­tifi­cates is­sued by oth­er Cari­com Mem­ber States; and au­tho­ri­sa­tion of the ben­e­fits to be ex­tend­ed to spous­es and de­pen­dents of Skills Cer­tifi­cate hold­ers as out­lined in Cari­com’s pro­to­cols on Con­tin­gent Rights.

He said lead­ers al­so signed an agree­ment on a Cari­com Ar­rest War­rant Treaty. This es­tab­lish­es with­in Cari­com a sys­tem of ar­rest and sur­ren­der of re­quest­ed per­sons for the pur­pos­es of con­duct­ing a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion for an ap­plic­a­ble of­fence; or ex­e­cut­ing a cus­to­di­al sen­tence where the re­quest­ed per­sons have fled from jus­tice af­ter be­ing sen­tenced for an ap­plic­a­ble of­fence.

It was al­so agreed that T&T host Car­ifes­ta XIV dur­ing Au­gust 16-25, 2019.

Lead­ers al­so agreed on a Mul­ti-lat­er­al Air Ser­vices Agree­ment al­low­ing any Cari­com state that does not have a na­tion­al air­line the right to des­ig­nate an­oth­er Cari­com state air­line to op­er­ate on its be­half.

No lit joints, no lap dances and no Sex Island Party on T&T shores this weekend

National Security Minister Stuart Young is responding to international media reports that a sex party is going to be hosted later this month on an island off Trinidad.

In a statement, Young said he has seen the reports of a suggestion that there is to be some event taking place at an island off of the North of Trinidad, carded as a ‘Sex Island Party’.

“I have asked law enforcement and Immigration to monitor this and to make it known that such an event and the suggested illegal actions to take place will NOT be tolerated by Trinidad and Tobago.

The suggested illegality of drug use and prostitution is of concern to me and I have requested that positive action be taken to ascertain whether there is any veracity to the suggested event and to be extra vigilant to prevent any such event taking place.”

Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, speaking on a local radio programme today, said he wanted to disappoint “those who think it may happen.”

“It is definitely not going to happen, there is no such plan whatsoever that can actually ensure that it takes place,” Griffith said, telling his audience “there is no private island of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Griffith said he believes the event being promised here started some years ago in Colombia “but it is difficult if not impossible for this to take place.”

“Even before the police get involved you need the requisite approval for entry into Trinidad and Tobago waters from the Ministry of National Security and you must go through Immigration authorities. And then having said that …I can give the assurance that before the first joint is lighted, before the first lap dance is made that will never happen.  There’s cer­tain­ly no way that some­thing so or­gan­ised and pro­mot­ed like this can take place in T&T wa­ters.”

Un­der­cov­er po­lice of­fi­cers who have been dis­patched to “every cor­ner” of T&T to mon­i­tor il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties such as pros­ti­tu­tion and hu­man traf­fick­ing, will now fo­cus their at­ten­tion on the Sex Is­land event be­ing pro­mot­ed by a for­eign com­pa­ny for Down the Is­lands this week­end.

This was dis­closed by the Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice (CoP) Gary Grif­fith on CNC3’s The Morn­ing Brew today, as he dis­cussed a New York Post ar­ti­cle that iden­ti­fied T&T as its new lo­ca­tion for the in­fa­mous “Sex Is­land” all-in­clu­sive par­ty.

Ac­cord­ing to NY Post jour­nal­ist Michael Blaustein, the event is be­ing ad­ver­tised for US$4,500 this Fri­day to Sun­day (De­cem­ber 17). The pro­mot­ers are promis­ing 50 guests two pros­ti­tutes each, drugs and un­lim­it­ed food and drinks, with most of the women com­ing from Colom­bia, Brazil, Puer­to Ri­co, Amer­i­can, Cana­da and oth­er South Amer­i­can coun­tries.

Not­ing that such ac­tiv­i­ty was il­le­gal, Grif­fith said that the of­fi­cers, who had al­ready al­so been as­signed to mon­i­tor es­tab­lish­ments where mi­nors are sold al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes, will be on high alert to en­sure the event does not go on as planned if the re­port is true.

Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young al­so said he in­tends to block the or­gan­is­ers of a four-day, three-night “sex ex­trav­a­gan­za.”

The event al­so hit the British new me­dia Tues­day, with the On­line Mail re­port­ing that the or­gan­is­ers had an­nounced that a 16-year-old boy from New York had won a free tick­et to the event and was trav­el­ling to T&T to at­tend af­ter get­ting his fa­ther’s bless­ing.

Citizens question what Devant hopes to achieve

Even as he was condemned for sharing the Prime Minister’s mobile phone number, a defiant former government minister, Devant Maharaj yesterday shared National Security Minister Stuart Young’s cellphone number on social media.

“CALL STUART! Prime Minister Rowley has opted to be disconnected from the sufferings of the average citizen caused directly by the mismanagement of the economy by the termination of his cellular telephone phone. Given that Minister Stuart Young accused me of sedition for calling for a lawful protest and sharing the cell number of the Prime Minister, I now call upon citizens to call Minister Young and speak out against the undemocratic pattern of behaviour of the Rowley Administration on his phone at 6******,” Maharaj posted yesterday.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is reacting with outrage over former UNC government minister Devant Maharaj’s decision to share Rowley’s personal telephone number on social media.

In a statement issued on Saturday evening appealing to “all the decent right thinking people of Trinidad and Tobago” Rowley apologised for having to discontinue the number.

He explained: “Today, due to circumstances beyond my control I am forced to communicate an apology to you as a result of the reckless and dangerous behaviour of former UNC Minister Devant Maharaj.

For very many years, I have maintained the same telephone number. Upon assuming office I continued to keep that same number and used it effectively for private and public business. Very many of you members of the public have used that number, appropriately, in your moments of need or simply to wish me well on a daily basis.

As of Friday December 7th 2018, Mr Devant Maharaj of the UNC, obtained my telephone number and has maliciously published it in the widest possible way on social media and further he has encouraged and incited persons to harass and threaten me.

Our country being what it is and containing enough unfortunates to be guided by the likes of Mr Devant Maharaj, I have been the subject not only of abuse but of threatening behaviour which warranted the involvement of the Commissioner of Police.

As a result of this act of gross misconduct and in my desire to serve you in a sane and sober manner I regret that I will be discontinuing the use of the number that you might have known and used at some time in the past.

I am saddened by this because I always felt connected to you just as an ordinary citizen whose phone number was widely known and available to the responsible public but this being the times in which we live and the technology available to the lowlifes like Mr Maharaj I have no choice but to access and use another number which you will become familiar with in the normal decent way.

I trust that our country never becomes so barren that there is an absence of leadership in all quarters, especially the political arena, where rogue elements who try to drag us down to their base levels can be roundly condemned. I so do”.

Young also said Maharaj’s circulation of calls for protest action warranted a criminal investigation and “may qualify as the serious crime of sedition.” Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said there is no criminal investigation into Maharaj circulating the PM’s’s personal contact information on social media. But Griffith warned citizens against making this kind of information public because it could jeopardise people’s security. Griffith said subsequent to the PM’s cell phone number being publicised on social media, Rowley received threatening phone calls from one person. He said this matter is now the subject of a police investigation.

People’s National Movement (PNM) Women’s League chairperson Camille Robinson-Regis said the Opposition Leader must condemn Maharaj’s “guerilla gambit.” But she opined that this may not happen if the “opposition’s thin veneer of decorum was shattered on her instructions.” Robinson-Regis said if this is the case, the League demands that Kamla Persad-Bissessar “take responsibility for the reckless actions of her former cabinet member.” She also said the League expects “nothing short of an immediate apology and public interdiction of Mr Maharaj.”

In a statement, the PNM supported Robinson-Regis’ position. PNM public relations officer Laurel Lezama Lee Sing said Maharaj continues to be “unpatriotic and ill-disciplined” in and out of public office. She said Maharaj’s efforts to harass and effectively torment the PM “only serves to prove his “imbecilic and obnoxious levels of thinking, and his malicious intent to attempt to destabilise our country.”

Report police who do not produce ID- Young

Re­port those po­lice who don’t pro­duce ID!

That’s the ad­vice from Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young on op­tions avail­able to the pub­lic when po­lice of­fi­cers refuse to pro­duce iden­ti­fi­ca­tion dur­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of their du­ties.

Young spoke about the sit­u­a­tion in the Sen­ate yes­ter­day re­ply­ing to Op­po­si­tion queries.

When mem­bers of the pub­lic deal with uni­formed po­lice in marked po­lice ve­hi­cles who refuse to pro­duce ID, Young said the per­son in ques­tion should note the date, time and place of the sit­u­a­tion as well as the num­ber of the ve­hi­cles and re­port it to the Po­lice Pro­fes­sion­al Stan­dards Bu­reau or Po­lice Com­plaints Au­thor­i­ty as soon as pos­si­ble.

If the of­fi­cer is not in po­lice uni­form and is us­ing an un­marked car, the per­son should re­port the mat­ter to the near­est po­lice sta­tions AS­AP and get a re­ceipt for their re­port.

Young said gold and sil­ver badges will soon be used by First and Sec­ond Di­vi­sion po­lice of­fi­cers re­spec­tive­ly to iden­ti­fy them­selves.

In Au­gust, the Po­lice So­cial and Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion had pro­posed met­al badges to iden­ti­fy po­lice. The plan for badges was raised soon af­ter the Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er as­sumed of­fice in Sep­tem­ber. Young took the is­sue a step fur­ther yes­ter­day de­tail­ing what badges which of­fi­cers will get.

“The badges will have of­fi­cers’ names and reg­i­men­tal num­bers and will be eas­i­ly iden­ti­fied by mem­bers of the pub­lic. They will be used as TTPS iden­ti­fi­ca­tion go­ing for­ward.”

He said the ten­der for sup­ply of badges was is­sued and replies were be­ing re­ceived. He as­sumed eval­u­a­tion would be next and then a con­tract will be award­ed.

He al­so re­vealed that 27.4 mil­lion has been stolen from cus­tomers in card “skim­ming” fraud in the last 22 months alone.

Young said po­lice had re­ceived a to­tal of 3,044 re­ports of card skim­ming over Jan­u­ary 1, 2017, to No­vem­ber 15, 2018, with a to­tal of $27.4 mil­lion be­ing skimmed il­le­gal­ly.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter An­tho­ny Gar­cia, al­so re­ply­ing on an­oth­er ques­tion, said no dis­ci­pli­nary ac­tion was ini­ti­at­ed against stu­dents who were ar­rest­ed dur­ing the Oc­to­ber protest at UWI.

He said in light of “cir­cum­stances lead­ing to the protest,” the po­lice’s “in­ter­ven­tion”, and le­gal process­es, the cam­pus de­cid­ed not to ap­ply any in­ter­nal dis­ci­pli­nary mea­sures.

Expect stiffer fines for illegal use of Police & Army uniform

Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young says he fore­sees in­creased fines and penal­ties for the pub­lic use of banned cam­ou­flage wear as well as po­lice uni­forms.

He made the com­ment dur­ing Friday’s sit­ting of Par­lia­ment as the is­sue of the re­cent kid­nap­ping of Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies em­ploy­ee Maria Dass-Su­per­sad came up. Two of the sus­pects who grabbed Dass-Su­per­sad from the UWI St Au­gus­tine cam­pus were said to have been dressed in a uni­form marked “po­lice” and a cam­ou­flage out­fit.

Young re­it­er­at­ed it was a crime for cit­i­zens who are not mem­bers of ei­ther the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice or the De­fence Force to use po­lice or army uni­forms. He said the sit­u­a­tion was of se­ri­ous con­cern to Gov­ern­ment.

“We’re en­gaged in dis­cus­sions with the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice and T&T De­fence Force to ask them to put more mea­sures in place to en­sure that le­git­i­mate po­lice and army uni­forms aren’t be­ing used in the com­mit­tal of these crimes. There have been a few in­stances where this has tak­en place,” he said.

He said such per­sons who are de­tained are be­ing pros­e­cut­ed. He added that in a re­cent kid­nap­ping, uni­forms were loaned to al­leged per­pe­tra­tors and such peo­ple are be­fore the courts.

Income Tax Bill Passed on Friday, buying T&T time

In a drastic and desperate move, the Government butchered the controversial Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, deleting all clauses that required Opposition support to ensure its passage.

The bill, which the Government said was crucial to avoid this country becoming blacklisted and was necessary to ensure international financial transactions are not hampered, was passed just before 9 p.m. on Friday, with all Government members voting for it and all Opposition members voting against it. The final vote was 19-14.

This gives T&T some breathing room as it tries to meet deadlines for international tax regulation compliance.

Addressing the media at a press conference, Imbert said the he government will send the amended bill to the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, letting them know it was the best that could have been done, and ask if it meets requirements. “We will most likely get a favourable response but we did the best we could,” Imbert said.

The vote in Parliament on Friday night met Global Forum’s requirement for the passage of the bill, he said, but Global Forum was only interested in proclaimed legislation.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, also on Friday night, said T&T was able to “buy some time” by severing the bill in half. “As a result of the Opposition’s insistence that they will not support the legislation to treat with the Global Forum we specifically had to delete all the clauses of the bill that required a special majority,” Al-Rawi said.

Friday’s deadline was for the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to re-evaluate T&T as a precursor for a meeting in February that will be held in Paris. FATF requires laws that allow law enforcement to access banking information that can highlight offences like fraud and proceeds of crime. In January, a group of evaluators from other member countries will review TT’s progress regarding the passage of the law.

The Government removed clauses 6-10 of the bill, which focused on demands from the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, which requires sharing information between its 145 member countries.

The bill, inclusive of clauses 6-10, was a copy of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), a US government requirement passed after much debate in 2017. It required a special two-thirds majority to pass. Since it was unable to secure the Opposition’s support, the government, rather than pass no bill, watered it down so it could pass with a simple majority. The modified bill was passed 19-14 with no abstentions, six months after it was introduced.

Global Forum requires that TT not just pass but enact sections removed from the bill. Doing otherwise, Imbert said, will make T&T non-compliant with international laws and unable to receive the benefits of mutual sharing of information regarding money laundering and terrorism financing.

Al-Rawi said that the removal of the five clauses is not the end of the matter since the deleted clauses can make a comeback as part of any of the three laws needed to be passed to make the country eligible to sign an international treaty, similar to one attached to FATCA.

The three laws that need to be debated and enacted are the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, the Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters Bill, and the Tax Information Exchange Agreements Bill. Unlike FATCA, he said, which is a bi-lateral arrangement with the US, this treaty can only be signed after the all the bills are made law.

Since on­ly parts of the In­come Tax Amend­ment Bill were passed, Gov­ern­ment says the rest of the bill con­cern­ing Glob­al Fo­rum as­pects will be brought back to Par­lia­ment ear­ly next year.

And for this sec­ond round, the T&T Cham­ber has sent a stern mes­sage to both Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion: no re­peat of the re­cent long-wind­ed process re­gard­ing the bill.

“No grand­stand­ing and de­lays ahead – please,” T&T Cham­ber CEO Gabriel Faria added.

Im­bert said,”Over the last month it be­came ob­vi­ous the Op­po­si­tion wouldn’t sup­port the bill and one of the rea­sons ap­peared to be the clause al­low­ing po­lice eas­i­er ac­cess to tax in­for­ma­tion from In­land Rev­enue. But we agreed to their call to add ju­di­cial su­per­vi­sion in the sit­u­a­tion.

“That clause was one of CFATF’s rec­om­men­da­tions and we were able to pass that with a sim­ple ma­jor­i­ty. If we didn’t, CFATF would have black­list­ed us. It’s iron­ic that the clause that was passed with sim­ple ma­jor­i­ty vote was one they had con­cerns about – they shot them­selves in the foot. The claus­es which re­quired Op­po­si­tion votes for pas­sage and which we delet­ed were the in­for­ma­tion as­pects Glob­al Fo­rum (GF) re­quired.”

Im­bert added, “We’ll now go to the GF on their as­pects. They’re com­ing in Jan­u­ary and we’ll get in­for­ma­tion and I’m sure we’ll have to do the bill over on their mat­ters. I’m sure we’ll be back in Par­lia­ment with it by Feb­ru­ary. Hope­ful­ly, there’ll be no dras­tic sit­u­a­tions.”

Cham­ber CEO Faria, who ex­pressed hap­pi­ness at the bill’s pas­sage, said they were very con­cerned at the wast­ed en­er­gy in the mat­ter.

“While Gov­ern­ment made some con­ces­sions, if both par­ties had ad­dressed it prop­er­ly T&T would be much more ef­fi­cient. So more ma­tu­ri­ty needs to be dis­played – don’t wait un­til the last minute to ad­dress is­sues. That’s why we’re in sit­u­a­tions like Petrotrin and WASA,” Faria said.

“It’s very stress­ful in an al­ready dif­fi­cult cli­mate for busi­ness and con­sumers. Next rounds it must be bet­ter. Mem­bers have sent me copies of let­ters from banks who can no longer main­tain ac­counts due to the coun­try they’re in.”