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We must stop criminal empires in prison-AG

The trinidad Guardian / Prison officers will be safer once the corruption and operation of criminal empires in prisons are stamped out, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi maintained yesterday

“Did the grenade at the Frederick Street prison (in the July 2015 jailbreak) get there by magic? Let’s call a spade a spade. There are good prison officers – but there’s also a problem. It requires collaborative effort to stamp out the corruption and stop the criminal empires in the prison system,” Al-Rawi added at a media briefing at his Port-of-Spain office.

“How do phones get into the prison? How does contraband get in – not by itself. Last year, we logged a million illegal text messages over three months and 330,000 illegal phone calls in one month (during a period of surveillance).”

He noted that he’d spoken about the illegal calls and text messages during Parliament debate in April 2016.

The AG’s comments followed the Prison Officers’ Association’s recent complaints – including that Al-Rawi’s call for the association to work with Government on their concerns was “fake.”

Al-Rawi said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley called a National Security Council meeting on Monday following recent shooting of prison officers. He said a manhunt is on for a known suspect in one case and a “target” was identified in another.

But he said corruption and criminality in the system is an issue. He said there are adequate laws and when he’d asked for recommendations on others he didn’t get specifics.

Al-Rawi said firearms are issued on average of 25 to 30 annually and houses are also allocated to officers. But he said people could still be targeted even if they got a house.

He also said the T&T and Canadian governments, following collaborative efforts, are currently looking at programmes retro-fitting prisons.

On another matter, Al-Rawi said the Bankers’ Association was completely wrong in claiming T&T was being “grey listed” for Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issues.

Al-Rawi, just back from a Caribbean FATF conference, said there’s no “grey list” status for countries like T&T which are in the normal course of “Fourth Round” evaluation on FATF frameworks. The latter involves anti-money laundering and terrorist financing provisions. He said T&T is “well on track” with this and is in observation status, which all FATF members undergo.

He said the BATT misinterpreted the situation and T&T isn’t at risk of any sanctions. He added that T&T’s FATF standing is good and necessary legislation has been laid in Parliament.

“T&T’s progress has been commended by our international reviewers and T&T is the model for the Caribbean FTAF,” the AG said.

He said T&T’s FATF action plan has a May 2019 time line and progress will be examined next year. However, he said he was astounded BATT wasn’t aware of the work done by T&T in the last two years and he’ll meet with them tomorrow to clarify these misconceptions.

 

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