POLICE COMMISSIONER Gary Griffith has distanced himself from the search at Express House saying he is out of the country and the running of the police service is solely in the hands of the acting Police Commissioner ACP Irwin Hackshaw.
Griffith, who is in London attending a commissioner’s conference, told Newsday that he found out about the search at the building “in between two goals Liverpool got.”
Griffith added that while he was out of the country, Hackshaw was in charge, and it would be improper for him to get involved in the running of the police while there was another active head of the service.
On Sunday, the Express published an article saying that Hackshaw was being probed by police in relation to suspicious banking transactions. Griffith said he received a file from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) about the alleged misconduct and gave it to the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB). Usually, files of such nature are given to the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB) and the Financial Intelligence Bureau (FIB), but Griffith said he opted to give it to the PSB. Subsequently, the information was leaked to Express.
On Wednesday, Griffith said, “An investigation must take place but focus on the police who breached the law and not the media.”
He pointed out that the various spats he has had with the media house has never reached to the point of a search. He said, however, that there was a breach of the law regarding the leaking of the information which carried a penalty of three years in prison that must be investigated.
Seven officers led by FIB head Supt Wendell Lucas searched the office of Express editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder looking for, according to sources inside the media house, “the source of the information.”
The officers had obtained a warrant from the Port of Spain Magistrates’ Court just after 4 pm and visited the media house shortly after. They spent two hours there and left empty handed saying it was a “police operation.”
In response to the police search president of the Media Association of TT Dr Sheila Rampersad said, “MATT is alarmed at this development.
"Journalists in receipt of information about wrong doing cannot be intimidated by police to reveal their sources. This also demonstrates the need for adequate whistle-blower legislation. We call on the Police Service Commission to insist on restraint by the TTPS whose members are named in the investigations.”
National Security Minister Stuart Young, in a media release, said he was awaiting information on the search.
“I have seen reports of what appears to be a Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) search of a media house. I have not been provided with any information on this action by the TTPS nor have I been briefed on it. I believe in the protection of the freedom of press as well as the principle of media responsibility and would not condone a breach of either of these two principles.”
The Police Complaints Authority is investigating the contents of the report regarding Hackshaw and the allegations that he received several cheques from businessmen amounting to $2 million. They are also investigating the leak of that information to the Express.