Two recent incidents have called into question the will of Trinidad and Tobago’s top officeholders to treat with white-collar crime as seriously as their promises suggest.
On Monday, the public was alerted to dozens of Housing Development Corporation applicants being fleeced of $48,000 in a month by con artists posing as agents of the corporation processing their housing applications.
In a press release, the HDC warned of these con artists, noting that the process they are using is not one the corporation undertakes to deal with customer application. HDC general Manager Brent Lyons detailed an elaborate scheme in which the con artists were going around to customers posing as legitimate agents finalising their applications.
But citizens are fully aware that the current activity occurs only because HDC employees have been caught in similar activity in the past. The perpetrators of these acts, who prey on citizens’ desperation – itself fallout from previous governments’ failure to deal with housing demand – and the outcomes of the cases are mostly kept secret by the corporation. In other words, whether the perpetrators of such acts felt the full brunt of the law remains underdetermined.
On the other hand, we have the Drugs Sou Sou (DSS) operation in La Horquetta. Officers from the Professional Standards Bureau raided DSS for a second time in just over a month yesterday, as they continue their probe into not only its operation but the involvement of T&T Police Service and Defence Force officers in its operations.
What has been particularly disturbing is that despite the fact it has been branded a pyramid scheme by more than one high-ranking public official, it continues to be allowed to operate.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley not only labelled the DSS a pyramid scheme but called it a threat to national security earlier this month. In fact, he deemed the probe critical enough to invite independent officers from Barbados and the UK to join the investigations into its operations. Despite this, up to yesterday, members of the public were being allowed to “invest” in something which may yet be completely shut down, taking with it their hard-earned money.
John Public is all too aware of the fact that while probes into such activities may take down the perpetrators, the return of money lost is most time never part of that process. Needless to say, this media house is disturbed that even while the DSS probe has resulted in the suspension of four police officers and warnings to the public from the PM to stay away from it, it is still allowed to function.
As such, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced every citizens’ economic stability, we hope that yesterday’s second DSS raid was a sign of the TTPS’ intention to take down not only that operation but all others like it. Hopefully, this too is a sign to all those perpetrating white-collar crimes on our citizens that their days are numbered.