Nyree Alfonso: Hinds must say sorry to gun dealer

Attorney Nyree Alfonso. -
Attorney Nyree Alfonso. -

ATTORNEY Nyree Alfonso said on June 10 that Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds failed to say sorry when he withdrew his false claim that firearms dealer Towfeek Ali had had his records stolen and did not report this theft to police.

Alfonso is Ali’s wife and a director in his firm – the Firearms Training Institute. Alfonso told Newsday on June 10 she is weighing her legal options.

At a June 4 briefing at his ministry after the Gonzales quadruple killings, Hind said the government’s anti-crime efforts were being thwarted.

Accusing authorised gun dealers of being profit-driven, and alleging a diversion of legal firearms into criminal hands, Hinds wrongly claimed that a police affidavit relating to a 2022 police audit of Ali’s businessplace had reported him (Ali) as saying his records had been stolen.

Later on June 4, after Hinds’ press conferece, Alfonso in an interview with Newsday, flatly denied such claim saying it was “a figment of a minister’s beleaguered psyche.”

According to a story published in Newsday, Alfonso said, “No dealer has been charged, yet the streets are awash with blood. It is nothing to do with the legal dealers.”

On June 5, Hinds in a brief press release admitted, “As part of my contribution to the media, I suggested that Mr Towfeek Ali was identified in a court affidavit as the gun dealer who was unable to produce his records when required to do so by the police, explained that the said records were stolen, and that no report was made to the police.

“I here state that that aspect of my statement was erroneous, as Mr Ali was not identified in the court document, as the dealer.

“The statement therefore, being erroneous, is hereby withdrawn.”

But on June 10, Alfonso told Newsday, “He did not issue an apology, which I think was the human and decent thing to do.”

She said Hinds got it wrong, as Ali was not guilty of what he (the minister) had said. Alfonso did not know if some other dealer had been culpable regarding records being stolen and this act not being reported to police.

“But I am 100 per cent certain – because we are in court three times over with the Commissioner of Police (CoP) – there is no affidavit in which any such allegation was made (against Ali).

“I cannot speak for any other dealer but I can speak with great definitiveness: It’s not Towfeek Ali and not the Firearms Training Institute.

Alfonso continued, “I would have expected the decent thing to do was identify you made a mistake, which he (Hinds) has done, and to apologise. We were swarmed with phone calls and WhatsApp (messages).

“We don’t sell toolum or salt prunes. Imagine you are a customer of the Firearms Training Institute, as many people are for decades, and a declaration is made that the person you purchased your firearm from, and who you come to and train on their range and have your guns cleaned or repaired or serviced, that that person is doing something wrong.

“That is a very significant allegation to make.”

Alfonso said Hinds’ error was worsened by the fact he was supposedly quoting sworn evidence from an affidavit.

“I would have expected an apology, and like I said, we are certainly looking at our (legal) options.”

Alfonso wondered why Hinds had mentioned the institute when talking about the Gonzales killings.

On June 2, gunmen shot at a group of men who had been playing football near a school in Gonzales, Belmont. An ambulance took the wounded men to hospital, but as their relatives and medics unloaded them to go for treatment at Port of Spain General Hospital, masked gunmen shot at them again.

Four men were killed and two wounded in all, at Gonzales and at PoSGH, in what police said was gang-related activity. The police have offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.

“The quadruple murders: why was that juxtaposed next to our business,” Alfonso asked. She said Hinds had spoken at length about multiple shootings and then spoke about the institute.

“Then he is into us, as if there is a link between the Firearms Training Institute and Towfeek Ali, and the proliferation of arms and ammunition in the hands of people who commit the said crimes he’s describing. I don’t like the juxtaposition at all. There is no justification, there is no link, there is no correlation.”

While she did not know if Hinds had been referring to any real firearms dealer, she was certain no affidavits had referred to the institute. Alfonso said she has transcribed Hinds’ remarks and is examining her legal options.

“It cannot pass with that degree of ease, especially without an apology.”

Giving an apology, she said, takes nothing away from someone, she said, but shows you are human like everyone else.

“You are duty-bound to tender an apology. You hold a press conference shared thousands of times. It wasn’t some side comment while you were in a cocktail party.”

She also said in matters of defamation, a correction must be issued with the same prominence as the original statement.

“Sending a last-minute two-paragraph press release is not the same as having a press conference.” Newsday tried but was unable to get a response from Hinds on June 10.


"Nyree Alfonso: Hinds must say sorry to gun dealer"

More in this section