C-TOC raids Caricel's offices

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C-TOC raids Caricel's offices

Saturday, February 22, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Besieged local telecommunications company Symbiote Investments, operators of Caricel Jamaica, are in the news again.

A number of officers from the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch (C-TOC), an intelligence arm of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, were still locked inside the head office of Symbiote in the Half-Way-Tree area of St Andrew up to late last night.

The police lined the fence and entrances to the premises with yellow tape, and had been inside the building at number four Eastwood Park Road for several hours, and were carrying out an intensive search and investigations up to when the OBSERVER ONLINE team left the area.

However, the Observer contacted the head of C-TOC, Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey, who confirmed last night that the team was carrying out investigations into allegations of illegal activities in breach of the Telecommunications Act.

Symbiote, which owns two telecommunications operations housed at the site — Caricel and Xtrinet — has been in a virtual tug-of-war with successive governments and the courts over a telecommunications licence granted in 2015.

In the meantime, the couple who runs the operation, Lowell and Minette Lawrence, have insisted that since then they have been the victims of a variety of conspiracies against their company's survival.

The Supreme Court denied Symbiote's application for leave to apply for judicial review of the Government's decision to revoke the company's telecommunications licence in 2019. The Court of Appeal also refused the company's request for a temporary stay to be granted until it makes an application for permission to appeal to the Privy Council in London, for which British-born attorney Lord Anthony Gifford was recruited.

But while Symbiote agreed to cease operations in order to take the matter to the Privy Council, the company insisted that the brand would continue to work for its customers under a new agreement with Xtrinet.

In December 2018, Caricel placed all its licensed facilities and operations under the immediate control of Xtrinet Limited, a locally licensed carrier and service provider. Notification of the arrangement was provided to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) by correspondence that same month.

In April last year, the OUR advised that as a result of the Court of Appeal decision on March 29, 2019, Symbiote was not authorised to own or operate a facility, nor is it permitted to provide telecommunications or other specified services in Jamaica, as defined in the Telecommunications Act, to the public.

Balford Henry

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