Trinidad and Tobago intelligence agencies dropped the ball on Buju Banton, says police commissioner

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Commissioner of police, Gary Griffith and Buju Banton

By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate managing editor
[email protected]

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Commissioner of police Gary Griffith announced that the issue of a warrant and the subsequent search of Mark Myrie commonly known as Buju Banton and his hotel room Saturday may have been the final act for the Organized Crime and Intelligence Unit (OCIU) of the police service. A news conference is scheduled for Wednesday for a major overhaul in the intelligence department.

“I realised there have been several irregularities and ball- dropping by intelligence agencies in the police service and this here could very well be the last straw. The OCIU is also supposed to be very instrumental in driving home the prosecutorial arm-so… likewise that we do not have any loopholes that someone can take advantage of loopholes that we may have caused and that has not also taken place. And I am going to put an end to this,” Griffith said.

Griffith is yet to determine the background to the intelligence leading up to the warrant and subsequent search of Banton’s hotel room, where nothing illegal was found. He, however, noted that “I have no intention for us to continue to drop the ball. The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, (TTPS) needs to be intelligence-driven in all operations, and that needs to be the catalyst for successful operations.”

In 2009 Banton was arrested on drug trafficking offences in the United States. In 2011, he was convicted of those offences and served time in federal custody. He was released December 7, 2018.

Banton arrived in Trinidad and Tobago April 19, 2019, after minister of national security Stuart Young granted him (and one other Jamaican citizen/performer known as Luciano and American citizen/performer known as Wayne Wonder), a ministerial permit to enter Trinidad and Tobago to perform at a concert on Easter Sunday at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain.

“Permission was granted after due consideration and also an appreciation of our CARICOM stance and commitments,” Young, said.

On Saturday, a mere 24 hours before Grammy award winner Banton was scheduled to perform at the Queen’s Park Savannah at the I Am Legend festival, Trinidad and Tobago police executed a warrant on Banton’s hotel room but found nothing illegal.

Following this embarrassing episode, Griffith extended an apology to Banton along with the assurance that the matter would be personally investigated.

On social media, Buju questioned “How can you obtain a warrant for a hotel room on a Saturday? adding, “I am chilling in my hotel room and the cops came, a whole bunch of them, said they had a warrant to search my room and a whole bunch of stuff.”

Despite everything, Banton said, “he has nothing but love in his heart for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Meantime, Young issued a statement saying in part, “I have observed events that unfolded with respect to a search of Buju’s hotel room and an eventual meeting between Buju and the commissioner of police Griffith. I welcome this assurance by the commissioner and the men and women of the Trinidad and Tobago police service.”

Meantime, Griffith is following up on the events that led to the cause of the OCIU’s conduct in Banton’s incident stating that “The search warrant with Buju Banton, I think again, based on intelligence, what you need to do is make sure there is proper surveillance,” hitherto, “someone obviously dropped the ball that could have caused a major rift between Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.”

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