Wednesday's daylight robbery at Piarco International Airport represents an alarming escalation of criminal activity. Not only did the perpetrators make off with $5 million in funds from a State-owned bank, but they managed to execute a daring plan in a highly sensitive security environment with apparent ease. This is a smelly affair.
While many suspect an inside job, it is clear there have been wider failings. Did the Airports Authority have prior warning of vulnerabilities at the airport? If so, what action, if any, did it take to address those vulnerabilities? And what of First Citizens Bank (FCB), the victim of the robbery? Has it been effective in detecting when its own security systems are compromised?
No one can take comfort in the fact that FCB appears to be the subject of repeated and increasingly audacious robberies. It was only in September that bandits cut a hole into the side of the FCB Montrose branch, penetrated a vault and purloined $3.5 million.
The Tobago connection should also attract scrutiny from law enforcement authorities. Wednesday’s cash shipment was intended for Tobago. It was not the first time such a shipment was targeted.
In 2013, a Sentinel Security Services Ltd guard was killed when bandits stole $7 million being taken to the airport for transfer to FCB’s Tobago branches.
What is more disturbing is that this week’s robbery comes not long after the emergence of a mysterious $8 million transfer out of the accounts of the Tobago House of Assembly.
Last Tuesday, minority representative for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside Farley Augustine raised reports of an “erroneous” payment to the wrong bank account.
All of these incidents reveal one clear fact: the State is not doing a good enough job when it comes to safeguarding our patrimony. This is particularly distressing in the context of increased levels of taxation, a slowdown in economic activity and the likelihood that such funds will end up fuelling underworld criminal activity.
The Police Service has its work cut out. In addition to dealing with a spiralling rate of violent crime, it must now contend with the escapades of bandits who seem to think they can get away with murder. That’s something no bandit should be able to bank on.