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T&T Gov't denies receiving extradition request from US

Saturday, January 25, 2014 | 9:00 AM    

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – The Trinidad and Tobago Government has denied media reports here that the United States had sent a diplomatic note seeking the extradition of three nationals as investigations continue into the multimillion-dollar drug bust in the United States last month.

“We have received no diplomatic note on this matter,” Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran told reporters, while National Security Minister Gary Griffith insisted, “we have received no such information from the US authorities on any such extradition matter and neither any official who is involved in any intelligence agency at this time has any knowledge about that.

“I think I would be part of that circle being involved. As of this time, we have no such knowledge. I think it might also involve the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and maybe the Central Authority that will then fall under the purview of the Attorney General, but as of this time the Ministry of National Security still has no knowledge of any such request and I am sure the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in the dark,” he added.

Last Thursday, Federal officials announced that they had found 732 pounds of cocaine on December 20, 2013, concealed in cans of fruit juice at the Port of Norfolk in Virginia.

Investigators estimate the cocaine had a wholesale value of about US$12 million and a street value of up to US$100 million.

Customs and Border Protection Area Port Director Mark J Laria called the seizure a record for a single interdiction in the port of Hampton Roads.

The cocaine was found inside a shipping container that originated from Trinidad and Tobago. It was destined for New York.

The local company, SM Jaleel & Co Ltd, in whose products the cocaine had been shipped, has launched a series of media advertisements to clear its name as investigators from the United States continue their investigations here.

Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley said the opposition was heartened by the fact that the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was involved in the investigation. 

“And we expect that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will cooperate fully in assisting the DEA in bringing this particular issue to a successful conclusion. But it leaves us with a country with its borders still wide open. This is the outcome of a situation where Trinidad and Tobago is an invitation to drug dealers who know that our borders are wide open and that there is a government which does not care about our national security.

“We cannot protect ourselves from these drug dealers. We are a sitting duck with respect to them (drug dealers) using our facilities, our trading arrangements to transship their illicit cargo,” Rowley said, adding, “and I am sure that there are other instances where drugs passed through here and we didn’t know about it."

He accused the coalition People’s Partnership government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar of dismantling “our national security apparatus and we are now naked in the world”.

Rowley said that the opposition was eagerly awaiting the outcome of the US enquiries into the drug bust.

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