Social justice group wants independent probe of $22m sou-sou scandal

In this September 23, 2020 file photo, members of the Special Operations Response Team take part in the search of a house in La Horquetta in the $22 million sou-sou investigation. -
In this September 23, 2020 file photo, members of the Special Operations Response Team take part in the search of a house in La Horquetta in the $22 million sou-sou investigation. -

THE Criminal Justice Action Committee (CJAC), a new social justice group, wants an independent law enforcement agency, similar to the FBI in the US, to investigate the $22 million Drug Sou Sou (DSS) case.

In a media release on Friday, CJAC said the DSS probe and all spin-off investigations had "become so embroiled in public controversy that to be effectively overseen by the same players, who are actively involved, may be counter-productive and taint all investigations.

“We believe it is in the interest of the integrity of all these parallel investigations that there be a well equipped, competent and trustworthy investigatory arm of state such as the FBI, in our national security landscape. Such a body would go beyond the Police Complaints Authority’s remit and be able to intervene and take over an investigation such as this. The existence of such a body would at an early stage preclude the involvement of those who may seek to cover their actions, as many times officers are still involved indirectly, able to mishandle evidence or influence the outcomes.”

CJAC, which is made up of former law enforcement professionals, attorneys and a criminologist, said an ideal criminal justice system includes effective detection, timely prosecution through fair court processes and a corrections service designed to rehabilitate convicted inmates and those in remand.

CJAC said it will launch an initiative later this year to educate the public on the best practices of international criminal justice systems

“Our group will also place emphasis on advocating for the proper training of officers and prosecutors as well as the promotion of modern tools and techniques which will restore the confidence in the criminal justice system generally and make TT a safer society.”

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has said there are police officers involved in the DSS, which is led by a soldier.

Griffith has cancelled his vacation reportedly because of the seriousness of the investigation, which saw police seizing $22 million, but then reportedly returning the money to the DSS operator on September 22 and September 23.

Apart from how the operator acquired the money, the police are also investigating why an officer returned the cash less than a day after it was seized.

There are also investigations into reports that two soldiers removed money in an envelope during the raid at the house in La Horquetta and that people were assaulted during the exercise.

Griffith on Thursday said the investigations are being stymied as there is no official report of assault or theft.

In reference to the multiple probes, CJAC said its intention is to safeguard against abuses in criminal justice.

“Whilst there are several dimensions to this complex matter of concern, the unfortunate reality is that given the way the scenario has unfolded there are now parallel investigations including the disciplinary actions against officers based on allegations of impropriety, misconduct and active participation in criminal activity," it said. "Our committee's aim is to be a watchdog over abuses, shortcomings, lack of transparency and inefficiency in the system and advocate for reforms to meet 21 century criminal justice challenges.”

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