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JSC told illegal gun trade makes $100m annually
The illegal gun trade in T&T creates revenue in excess of $100 million annually, members of the Strategic Services Agency told a Joint Select Committee on national security yesterday.
The presentation was done in private before the JSC by senior officials of the protective services and the Defence Force at the ANR Robinson Room, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain. The meeting was chaired by Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Fitzgerald Hinds and focussed on illegal firearms in the country.
The media was also not allowed to witness presentation but Hinds later confirmed it during the public session of the meeting.
JSC member and Opposition Senator Wayne Sturge also spoke about the information which was presented to them. He did so in the form of a question to the Comptroller of Customs and Excise Glen Singh.
Based on the presentation, which showed the illegal gun trade was in excess of $100 million annually and that a substantial percentage of the arms entering T&T were coming through legal ports, Sturge asked what percentage of containers entering the country were scanned.
Singh said 60 per cent of them were and the 40 per cent that were not were from “compliant” importers.
In response to a question from Sturge about who determines which containers at not searched, Singh said there was a risk management committee “for which separate, clearly defined criteria are put into the system for doing such.” He said that criteria was based “upon your pattern, your history with us and your previous compliance rating.”
Sturge then said: “Given the fact that the gun trade is $100 million annually, it is obvious that the persons who are running the gun trade are not small people, so is it not common sense, since we see that a significant amount of seizures come through Customs and so on, is it not common sense that the 40 per cent are the persons, the rich people, who you should be having your eyes on?”
Singh responded: “That is a highly subjective statement. We don’t have a criteria for rich people.”
Singh said the relationship the Customs has “with a lot of the manufacturing and industrial concerns in T&T, it might mean that the percentage I am speaking about would be from established importers and captains of industry and those highly compliant industries and importers in T&T. “
“Are you saying that it is beyond the malintent of captains of industry to be importing illegal firearms?” Sturge asked.
“That is not what I said , Senator,” Singh replied.
In response to another question, Snr Supt Leroy Brebnor said the police had concerns about the 40 per cent of the containers that get the green light and are not scanned.
“That confirms and compounds the situation that we are in at this present state. If 40 per cent of your containers can go unsearched, then you could image what really goes on. The numbers that we are finding on a daily basis and the numbers that the SSA has put up could triple,” Brebnor added.
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