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File picture: The hands of an inmate can be seen through the window of a cell at the Maximum Security Prison in Golden Grove, Arouca.

As the investigation into the explosives and heavy artillery find near the Maximum Security Prison (MSP) last month deepens, there has been a major shake-up within the prison walls where several inmates—former T&T Defence Force personnel — have been transferred to different places.

According to prison sources, it is believed that the ex-soldiers are part of a gang believed to be continuing their alleged criminal activities behind bars. They are suspected of also being used and instructed by a high-profile prisoner to traffic contraband into the prison.

As an internal investigation by the T&T Prison Service continues, a special party of officers led by a prison supervisor searched the prison on Wednesday and recovered and seized the following items: 28 cartoons of Broadway cigarettes; one cartoon of Du Maurier cigarettes; 1,534 grams of marijuana; 100 cigarette lighters; 17 bottles of pepper sauce; two WiFi hot spot devices; one cell phone charger; three electric scales; one wireless headset; two hotplates; four packs of razor blades; one electric kettle; one cell phone holder; two extension cords; one flat screen 32-inch television; two television stands; six packs of playing cards; one sandwich press; 50 packs of wrapping paper; six packs of triple A batteries and a needle.

The items were stored in 15 bags at the prison’s chapel.

A senior prison officer said all the items were for the ex-soldiers at the MSP.

“They are part of a gang that the acting Commissioner of Prisons Dennis Pulchan is trying to stop and is going to stop their criminal behaviour behind bars,” the senior prison officer said.

The search was done at about 12.20 pm on Wednesday and lasted for over an hour.

Guardian Media was told that police and prison officers went to the MSP a few days ago and split up all ex-members of the TTDF. Some were taken to the Golden Grove Prison Remand, Guantanamo Building 13 and Port-of-Spain prison. The officers also moved the brother of a high-profile prisoner from MSP to the Port-of-Spain infirmary.

Guardian Media was also told that some of the relocated ex-soldiers are “fighting” a directive to have them moved, as all of them were confined to one section of the prison prior to the explosives find.

But according to the senior prison officer, the acting Commissioner of Prisons “has the duty of allocating all inmates in his custody to prisons for the good order and smooth running of the prison.”

“So this acting Commissioner is doing his job to protect society from these ex- service men who are charged for murder, to stop their criminal behaviours behind bars,” the senior prison officer added.

When contacted for comment yesterday, acting Commissioner of Prisons Dennis Pulchan said the prison service affords a level of security and safety to all inmates in its care. However, he said the COVID-19 challenges are real and every effort is being made to reduce risk towards inmates.

“Inmates would be assessed with regards to their threat and risk level for reallocation to suitable areas. This initiative is necessary to meet the need for accommodations for inmates under COVID-19 isolation,” Pulchan said.

“There is concern regarding the recent narritaves on a potential escape by some high-risk inmates. The prison service is doing all it can to keep its charges safe and secure.”

Pulchan reassured the public that his officers are “standing firm to maintain security and treat with any threats that may present themselves.