Checking the facts of a T&T drug story

A facts check of a drug story on Caribbean trafficking

The story in the Daily Express December 2, 2016 “Two Trinis held in the US” by Mark Bassant is the focus of this facts check which will reveal if what is published reflects reality. Bassant insists that the US authorities mounted a sting operation named “Operation Unified Resolve” to seize a yacht with 150 kilos of cocaine on board and arrested two Trinidadian males on board the vessel. “Operation Unified Resolve” is an ongoing operation of the US Coast Guard (USCG) since 2012 charged with interdicting illicit maritime activity in the waters of the US Caribbean territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. This was then no “sting operation” to catch a yacht with a piddling 150 k this was daily business and a naval asset usually of US Southern Command will take part in this operation but under the operational rules of the USCG seen in the fact that personnel of the USCG must board the vessel, search, seize and arrest. This is not Operation Martillo which takes place in non US territorial waters. The article states that the two men were arrested on July 1, 2016 and arraigned on July 12, 2016 in Florida and presently held in Pinellas County jail, Florida. The USCG issued a press release dated July 18, 2016 which reported that the USS Shamal whilst on patrol under the aegis of the USCG’s ongoing operation came upon a 49-foot sail boat with two male crew members which was boarded by the USCG contingent and 75 kilos of cocaine was recovered after being dumped overboard. A 49-foot sailboat is certainly not a yacht and 75k is not 150k of cocaine. The USCG news release revealed that the USS Shamal then intercepted a go-fast boat with 75k of cocaine and two crew members aboard who were also arrested. On July 18, 2016 the USCG Cutter Alligator offloaded the 150k seized by the USS Shamal at St. Petersburg, Florida with an estimated wholesale value of US$ 5 million. The persons arrested on the two drug transports would have been ferried much earlier to be arraigned in a US court. To put it mildly the expose in the Express is not meshing with the release form the USCG. The picture of the seized 150k of cocaine in the Daily Express story and its online version is reproduced in an online story on the said drug busts by and the said picture is captioned as the 150k of cocaine seized by the USS Shamal and this story repeats the USCG press release as being the result of interdicting two drug vessels not one. There is no USCG press release for July reporting on the seizure of a yacht with 150 k of cocaine with two men on aboard much less with a third one in a dinghy interdicted under Operation Unified Resolve. The article says that the FBI stated that the two men were arrested in the Eastern Caribbean which is the mandate of this operation. A seizure of 150k and then the making of a case to extradite the kingpin does not exclude silencing the placing in the public domain the report that the interdiction and arrest were made that is sweating the target and showing the US public that the war on drugs in winnable.

In the Caribbean trade today no player hands product over to someone on “consignment”. You are either part of the organisation with your designated task being transport so when the drug vessel approaches its assigned destination you hand it over to coastal transport who then hand it over to those charged with holding and protecting for the next phase that is how the Mexican trafficking organisations do business. Other than the MTTOs some will hire a transporter who has to hand it over to an organisation which receives it and that’s the sum total of the work of the transporter you lose it you pay for it. And the lowest level the 75k level are those who have some product but no organisational structure necessary to move, land, sell, cash mule the proceeds for laundry services and collect the washed proceeds. These are soon parted from their product by any means necessary. These will then form an alliance with those who can supposedly supply the services needed to place, sell product and wash the proceeds in the EU and the US. This lowest level is under extreme pressure exerted by the Mexican traffickers and their Caribbean gangland affiliates and the next level is operating on borrowed time as the Colombian organisations in the Caribbean are now affiliates of the Mexican trafficking organisations (MTTOs). The MTTOs are now moving up the trafficking food chain of the Caribbean and the strain on the decent and respectable people is now legion. Is Pressure that does bus pipe especially when the US extradition warrant touchdown in Piarco.



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