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South businesses under attack by criminals

Published: 
Saturday, September 22, 2018
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Daphne Bartlett, President, San Fernando Business Chamber Photo by:Rishi Ragoonath

Business owners in several parts of South Trinidad are cowering under attacks from an organised crime network from the East Port-of-Spain which is targeting their victims at home.

While it seemed coincidental at first, Southern Division police said they have been noticing similarities in the way some of the robberies have been carried out. Just Thursday night, La Romaine couple Adrian and Tessa Descot fell prey to armed bandits who assaulted them before looting their Chamally Roti Shop.

A report stated that the couple was standing outside the roti shop around 8 pm when three bandits walked up to them. One of them struck Adrian in the head with his gun and then dragged them inside the shop. The bandits stole $5000, US$2000 and two mobile phones. They then drove off with the couple’s Nissan Navara pick-up. San Fernando CID responded to the robbery and found the pickup abandoned in Bay View, La Romaine. However, no one was arrested up to last night.

The incident follows Wednesday’s robbery of Gasparillo contractor Peter Ramdhan, whose family was targeted in a home invasion. Five gunmen broke into his home and tied up his wife and son, before stealing $20,000, US$7000, three BMWs, a Jaguar S6 and a Kia Sorento. Four of the vehicles were recovered in Couva on Wednesday night.

A week ago, Aaron Hosein, the owner of JD’s Exclusive, was robbed of cash and other items when gunmen broke into his Princes Town home.

On September 6, Natalie Pollonais, the wife of Inland and Offshore Contractors Ltd director, Jason Pollonais, was kidnapped for ransom.

These were just of a few of the crimes against business owners in recent weeks and according to investigators, several of the suspects being arrested and linked to the crimes are from the Beetham Gardens and Sea Lots communities.

In an interview yesterday, San Fernando Business Association president Daphne Barlett said crime had reached the stage where it has become a business for criminals.

“And they find out everything they can. Just as Mrs Pollonais said in an interview, her kidnappers said that they knew everything about everyone in her family. This is no willy-nilly planning being done and the police just have to be on top of it. There has to be a ring of criminals operating and the Commissioner of Police, with his new tactics, have to break the ring,” Barlett said.

She said because of the struggle for foreign exchange, some businesses were advertising black market rates for the trading of US currency. She said this also make them targets. And while she called for the police to crack down on the criminal ring, she said the social reality was that the level of unemployment was forcing some people to “survive by any means possible.”

With Petrotrin set to retrench workers soon, she fears the increased unemployment could compound the attacks against businesses.

“As a business owner I feel insecure, but I believe that if there is the same swiftness in apprehending the criminals as they did with Ms Pollonais’ kidnapping, that can be a deterrent.”

Assistant Commissioner of Police (Southern Division) Jason Forde told the T&T Guardian that while these unfortunate events are taking place, police were actively pursuing investigations and having success with suspects, adding that several are before the courts.

He said that attacks on business owners have always been happening, as it has been the nature of criminals to pounce at every opportunity.

“People will notice that we have increased police presence in the entire country and we are working along with citizens, confidential informants and other bodies. Despite what is happening, there is a downward trend with regards to criminal activities in the country. The police are making a serious dent in crime and criminality and will continue to work with the population to ensure their safety and security,” Forde said.

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