PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – More than five years after police began investigating a “plant-like substance” on the property of former prime minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, they now say it is indeed marijuana.
But Police Commissioner, Gary Griffith, said while the police file on the investigation has been submitted to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, he has made it clear that the now Opposition Leader, is not the subject of the probe.
“I think it was rather disappointing that after five years we are still referring to a ‘plant-like substance. But, if you have full access, control and authority of a home and what enters it, then there can be some degree of responsibility in the matter,” Griffith said.
“In this case, based on the investigation, the marijuana was found outside her house. If it were found inside then there would be some degree of responsibility,” he added.
In July, 2015, then acting police commissioner Stephen Williams said he had given a two week extension of the probe that started in June, insisting that no preferential treatment was being given to Persad Bissessar, who was prime minister at the time.
Denied any knowledge
Persad Bissessar has denied any knowledge of the incident, which came to the public attention after the Trinidad Express newspaper carried a front-page story in which former national security minister Jack Warner was quoted as saying that on Friday, April 12, 2013, former deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson came to the Parliament and informed him that a packet containing four ounces of marijuana was found outside a window of the Persad Bissessar’s private residence at Phillipine, south of here.
Warner said after he was approached by the former senior police officer, he summoned the then leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal, who advised him to contact the Persad Bissessar who was in the United States at the time.
Griffith told reporters that the marijuana was found while Persad-Bissessar was out of the country and, at any point in time, there could have been up to 70 people that had full access to the yard, including gardeners, drivers, soldiers, police officers, etc.
He said while people would argue that there should be a thorough search of every person that comes into the property, it would entail detailed searches of every individual. He said it would have been “virtually impossible” to catch a person entering the compound with an illegal substance.
The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) said it too had launched its own investigation to determine whether there was any criminal misconduct by police officers into the alleged discovery.
UNC welcomes conclusion
In a statement, the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) said it welcomed the conclusion of the investigation
“After a protracted investigation surrounding allegations of a “plant-like” substance found on the property of former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the United National Congress welcomes the statement by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith in which he quite correctly stated that Mrs. Persad-Bissessar could in no way be responsible.
“The party commends the Commissioner for finally clearing the air on this matter, which first surfaced four years ago in June 2015 – an election year,” the party said, adding that it hopes similar resources will be deployed into the investigations of other outstanding investigations in the public domain.