Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith says despite what was reported in the media, Drugs Sou-Sou founder Kerron Clarke is not off the hook and he has cut his vacation short by four days to personally oversee the investigation.
“The Drugs Sou-Sou and I will continue to start using it Natalee (Legore), it is Drugs Sou-Sou, drugs, drugs, drugs, sou-sou, this DSS thing that people keep speaking about, so apart from the Drugs Sou-Sou matter and there are several other matters pertaining to the TTPS that I need to deal with as quickly as possible,” Griffith told CNC3’s The Morning Brew Host Natalee Legore while en route to Trinidad and Tobago from Ireland yesterday.
He added that it was proper for him to be here in person while international law enforcement officers were assisting locals in their investigation into the DSS operation and TTPS and Defence Force officers were alleged to have been part of the activities as well.
Griffith’s return came one day after Clarke told the media the top cop had a four-way conversation with himself, Guardian media Investigative journalist Mark Bassant and another person, where he (Griffith) allegedly assured Clarke that his business was not a crime. While Griffith confirmed he did have a conversation with Clarke, he blamed the Trinidad Express for what he called erroneous reporting and said he told Clarke an investigation was ongoing.
“What I stated is that if persons decide to put money in a scheme and scheme being the operative word, I cannot police stupidity, that is not a crime. However, what is being investigated is the receiver. Are you paying the relevant taxes? Do you have the relevant documentation? Are you adhering to the laws of this country?” Griffith said.
Griffith said he also had no regrets over personally being involved in the conversation with Clarke, saying he is not an armchair commissioner and noting the matter also brought into question the conduct of his officers.
“Mr Mark Bassant, he brought it to my attention that certain individuals wanted to speak to me, they wanted to give me certain information to deal with the rogue elements in the Police Service. I am not here to cover anything, yes we do have a serious situation here in the Police Service and what citizens should appreciate is that we are doing what we can to weed out the rogue elements,” he said.
However, Griffith remained tight-lipped on who was the fourth participant in the conversation. During a press conference on Wednesday, Clarke, a member of the T&T Defence Force, said he thought it was a police officer but later alleged it was a member of the United States Embassy who wanted information on senior police officers.
“Well that was a confidential informant I think from Mr Mark Bassant,” Griffith told Legore, directing all further questions on that particular matter to Bassant.
Griffith added that the investigation into the DSS was not an attack on poor people but rather a matter of national security.
“Someone has $22 million, a lance corporal in the army, $22 million in cash in shelves in the roof and all of that and people is saying that is not our concern, give the man back his money. No, we have to check. When you have $22 million we need to verify that it’s not money laundering or money being washed, so we are doing our job,” he said.
But is it against the Defence Force regulations for a soldier to run or be involved in a sou-sou?
Guardian Media attempted to contact Chief of Defence Staff Air Commodore Darryl Daniel but all calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.
However, former Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier Carl Alfonso, said up until his retirement there was no rule barring a soldier from taking part in a sou-sou.
“Soldiers from as far back as 1963 were free to be involved in a sou-sou, there was no regulation then that restricted you from putting your little ‘ka ka da’ in a sou-sou with fellow soldiers and even their friends. I retired in 1999, so I’m not aware if there are regulations now that address soldiers being part of a sou-sou,” Brigadier Alfonso said via text message.
Meanwhile, the DSS yesterday set up a Gofundme page to finance its legal fees with a target of $100,000. As of 6 pm last evening, a little over $4,000 had been raised.
“We at DSS will not go down without a fight. Financial freedom is a must!! Doing it for my people, we’re in this together,” the description said.
Donors supported the initiative, with one saying, “I am passionate about financial freedom and wealth generation.”
Another donor added, “We helped every other race for years without second guessing, it’s time black people start to help their own.”
However, on Facebook there was less sympathy for the cause.
“So, what happened to the 22 million…” one user asked.