Scores of eager Tobagonians on Saturday lined up to invest $3,500 for $23,000 in return as the Drugs Sou Sou launched opened for business in the face of multi-agency investigation linked to money laundering and a criminal cartel operating in the police and defence force.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, who is in the UK on vacation, alerted police to disperse the crowd gathered near Shepherd’s Inn Guest House, Store Bay Local Road, Crown Point and traffic backed up along the road.
People began gathering on the sidewalk outside the guesthouse’s main entrance from around 3 am, hoping to secure an early number for registration.
But within hours, the crowd spilled onto the roadway, causing police officers from the nearby Crown Point Police Station and other units to act.
Police had to manhandle several people, who breached the covid19 regulations regarding physical distancing and some were not wearing masks. Some people complied but others protested openly. Police arrested seven of them and charged them for breaching covid19 regulations.
Tobagonians said on Saturday while they knew an investigation has been launched into the DSS in Trinidad, they are still willing to take their chances to get rich quick.
“Since this covid19, things real hard. I am a mechanic and I used to make about $3,000 a day before. Now, I if I make $500 I lucky,” a mechanic told Sunday Newsday.
He said he had planned to invest $3,500, which will result in a return of $23,000 in 28 days.
“You think some of the normal monthly paid people could make that?” he asked.
The man said each investor also had to pay an administrator’s fee of $5,000.
Another woman said she was struggling to make ends meet and needed some relief.
“I just trying something yes and hoping for the best.”
A statement from the police identified the alleged offenders as Janine Collins, 36, a waitress, of St Augustine; Naiomi Alexander, 21, student, of Government Trace; Shevonne Hartell, 37, manager, of Top Hill, Pembroke; and Mia Charles, 21, of Robert Street, Bon Accord, Anthony Caesar, 33, lifeguard, of Charlotteville; Jennifer Latoch, self-employed, of Cottage Garden, Golden Lane and labourer Kwesi Beckles, 42. They will appear virtually before a Scarborough Magistrate on Monday.
People charged for flouting the public health regulations can be fined up to $250,000 or face six months imprisonment.But the penalty would be administered at the discretion of the presiding magistrate and would give people the option of appealing their cases.
Sunday Newsday understands the DSS scheme, which police raided in La Horquetta on September 22 and initially seized $22 m, which was later returned to the owners, was launched in Tobago last week.
It was advertised subsequently on social media, saying registration will take place every Saturday at Shepherd’s Inn between 9 am and 6 pm.
At a post-budget public meeting on Thursday, the Prime Minister announced he had taken charge of the investigation into the $22 million DSS scheme in La Horquetta.
The DSS was founded by soldier Kerron Clarke, who maintains his operation is legitimate.
Dr Rowley, in his capacity as chairman of the National Security Council, said he had retained the services of police from Barbados and the United Kingdom to probe the controversial scheme.
He declared the DSS was no sou-sou but a “cancer which, if left unchecked can eat the soul of the nation.”
Currently, four policemen have been suspended and another 11 transferred as a result of the scandal.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, currently on a month’s vacation leave in Ireland, said he hopes police will co-operate with the foreign investigators. He said a failure to do so could lead to suspensions and possible criminal charges.