1532463

Whatever your take on these modern day pyramid schemes, oxymoronically termed as “Sou-Sou investments” and “blessing circles” or gambling in general, these schemes have certainly gained tremendous popularity in Trinidad and Tobago despite warnings from financial regulators about their inherent risk, presumably because of its high payout rate, no taxes and large number of winners (until it crashes that is) as compared to the state sponsored NLCB games or its illegal “Chinese Whe Whe” counterpart.

Thus it was quite unsurprising, the public’s backlashed that quickly followed the TTPS raiding and seizing some $22Mn in cash ($92Mn if some media reports are to be believed) from the La Horquetta home of the alleged administrator of the now infamous Drug Sou-Sou (DSS). More surprising, was the release of the individuals and return of the money within 24hours, raising serious concerns about the evidential procedures of the TTPS, and the legality of the search and seizure itself. One can only wonder if and how the TTPS was able to obtain a search warrant for drugs and guns while suspecting the DSS operation of money laundering. Was the judicial officer mislead in granting such a warrant, if one was granted? What now becomes of that whole case?

It seems even Commissioner Griffith shared some of these concerns, prompting him to put aside his beef with David West and the PCA and call for their immediate investigation of the officers involved. I guess the PCA is only important to the CoP when it suits his agenda, or at least when they don’t have their water guns trained on his personnel, as can be seen from his comparatively combative response in the Hackshaw Matter as well as the allegations surrounding his handpicked, elite SORT team in the Morvant killings or more recently in the $22Mn DSS cash seizure, where officers allegedly abused their authority – beating occupants and misappropriating evidence. Why hasn’t the CoP similarly called on the PCA to investigate these matters? Is it that the CoP is intent on weeding out corrupt officers, so long as it’s not one of his boys?

Even more worrying is that the Hackshaw matter was investigated by senior members of his executive team, clearing Mr Hackshaw of any wrongdoing (criminal or otherwise), a conclusion that has since been overturned by the PCA and DPP, thus casting a dark shadow on the investigation itself and the entire executive as it leaves the public to wonder whether the executive was compromised and/or may have attempted to cover for Mr. Hackshaw. Who’s guarding the guards?

Whatever the case, given recent developments and subsequent pronouncements by the CoP, it’s clear that he has been unable to clean up the TTPS, with the general public and even the CoP himself losing trust and confidence in the organization. A sentiment similarly shared by MP Hinds and other members of the Government given previous statements on the issue. Perhaps there can be no greater signal that the Government must act now to keep its belated 2015 campaign promise and immediately move to empower the PCA with the necessary financial and legislative teeth to effectively conduct its oversight function, having the clear mandate to clean up the TTPS and restore the public’s faith in it.

Andre Phillip

via email