(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — AR-15s, Draco AK-47s and MAC 11s—all military-type weapons—were among a cache of high-powered rifles and drugs found at an apartment belonging to a well-known businessman yesterday morning.
This was one of two major busts involving the seizure of arms and drugs occurring in less than 24 hours in Central, East and North Trinidad.
In Central, police also found and seized ammunition/magazines and over 100 packets of compressed marijuana valued in excess of $1 million. Police also impounded a Hyundai Elantra, licensed PDN 6409.
The weapons, which are said to be brand new and believed to have been smuggled into the country from Venezuela via the Caroni River, can be sold on the streets from as much as $35,000 to $50,000.
The AR-15s carry 5.6 ammunition; the Draco AK47 uses 7.62 ammunition while the Mac-11 uses .380 ammunition. Police also found several rounds of assorted ammunition.
Two men, one of whom was described by police as a well-known person of interest, were in the apartment at the time the officers raided it. Both men are assisting police in their investigations.
The exercise, coordinated by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, was conducted between Thursday night and 11.20 am yesterday and involved officers of the Special Operations Response Team, Strategic Services Agency and the Canine Unit.
According to a T&T Police Service (TTPS) release, the officers acted on intelligence gathered over the past 18 months. The T&T Guardian was told that after gathering initial intelligence in the case, officers searched a house at Warren Road, just off Munroe Road, three months ago.
On Thursday, the officers went to an apartment complex off Macaya Trace, Munroe Road, Cunupia, where they searched one of six apartments. According to sources, it is believed the drugs were smuggled into the country by a major trans-shipment operation ring involving Venezuelans and locals.
Investigators said they are expected to view surveillance footage captured by CCTV cameras on the property in an attempt to get more information on those frequenting the apartment and housing the illegal items there.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday, neighbours, who wished not to be identified, said they were shocked at the findings at the apartment but said they were not surprised as the area was plagued with drugs and guns.
One neighbour said he strongly believed many of the items that entered the Munroe Road area were smuggled via the Cunupia River, which borders Macaya Trace and flows into the Caroni River.
Another resident said he noticed strange activities at the apartment building a few nights ago.
“I noticed people off-loading barrels and suitcases and large crocus bags…maybe that is what the police found in the apartment. At one time, I feel as though I saw someone holding a big gun too but I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me,” he said.
“This is so frightening but I guess we may never know who is behind that…most of these properties are owned by business people and it could easily be palmed off on tenants and the owners will say they don’t know what happens there when they are not around.”
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said the weapons seized were “indicative of the type of firepower which criminals now have at their disposal in Trinidad and Tobago.”
He said this was the context under which police officers needed to defend themselves.
Griffith commended the officers involved in the operation for their hard work and dedication to duty. He also thanked the public for providing information which aided in the success of the operation.
In a simultaneous exercise, which was done from Thursday night into early yesterday, officers of the Eastern Division Task Force found 68 packets of marijuana valued approximately $.5 million.
The officers acted on information received and went to Caigual Road, Sangre Chiquito, where they searched a bushy area. The officers, including members from the Valencia and Sangre Grande CID, found the packets of marijuana hidden in four white containers. Police said the drugs weighed 46.2 kilogrammes. Police also found a bulletproof vest. No one was arrested.