When Arima Magistrate Cheron Raphael granted a detention order application for $6.4 million of the Drugs Sou-Sou (DSS) money last week after it was seized by police, she also instructed during the court hearing that some $5,000 of the money be sent to the Forensic Science Centre in St James to be tested for narcotics.
Senior officers close to the investigation said due to the quantity of money in question, it was not an unusual request by the magistrate, who was within her right to do so if it was deemed necessary.
“What will happen is that $5,000 in random notes will be taken to the Forensic Science Centre to see if there is any residue of drugs on the notes,” one senior investigator told Guardian Media.
The application to detain the $6.4m was made after officers of the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) and Financial Investigations Branch (FIB) conducted a second raid at the DSS headquarters in La Horquetta last Tuesday under the coordination of the Barbadian and UK investigators who arrived in T&T a few weeks ago to assist with the probe. The money was seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Sources said yesterday that during the raid proper protocols were followed to ensure the already bundled money was not in any way contaminated by police.
“The integrity of the money was kept intact, with police officers handling the money wearing proper PPE and gloves when it was seized,” another senior police source explained.
During the raid, police also seized hundreds of receipt books and other relevant documents.
On Saturday, DSS owner Kerron Clarke took to social media verifying an earlier Guardian Media report that a court order had been granted to hold the millions seized by police. However, Clarke contended that it was, in fact, $7.7m.
A senior investigator yesterday sought to clear the air on Clarke’s figure, indicating that the Arima magistrate did grant a detention order application for the $6.4m seized last week but that the police had seized other sums from the DSS before this which were already under detention orders.
“What he (Clarke) was referring to is the additional seizure of money prior to this in which the Arima Magistrate’s Court also granted separate detention order applications for money seized prior to this,” the senior source explained.
In August of this year, the FIB had also visited Clarke’s DSS headquarters at Kathleen Warner Drive in Phase One, La Horquetta and had seized just over $600,000.
“Police were later granted a detention order application for that money for three months and will have to go back to the magistrate soon since that time is close to expiring,” a senior police source told Guardian Media.
On September 22, during the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) raid, the police also seized some $700,000 found in a knapsack belonging to a soldier who had been detained outside the DSS premises before the raid. The FIB was also granted a detention order application for that sum for a period of three months, the senior police source said.
During the September 22, raid police also seized some $22m that was later taken to the La Horquetta Police Station.
However, the money, the amount of which was never verified because police did not complete the counting of the seized cash, was released hours later to Clarke by junior police officers from the station who were not authorised to do so.
Police are also investigating the behaviour of a member of the T&T Defence Force who was caught on camera during the first raid stuffing money into his tactical uniform. The FIB is also investigating the source of DSS funds. At least four senior officers have been suspended and 11 others transferred out of the division.
The seized $6.4m is now in the process of being deposited to the Central Bank, where it will be kept until the three-month detention time elapses, at which time the police will approach a magistrate for further time if they have not completed their investigations.
If the police cannot give a justifiable cause for another detention order application, they will have to release the money back to the DSS owner.