21 Aug 2010

WTF: Dis how the rich live?

A day after they made one of the biggest weapons seizures, police described the Valsayn mansion of late millionaire contractor Hafeez Karamath as a drug den for the rich; a factory for the manufacture of exotic high-end hallucinogens.

Investigators estimate the mansion, located on a one acre property in the upscale neighbourhood of Palm Road, Valsayn, is worth more than $12 million.

They reported that “preferred clients” visited the mansion day and night. A ten-foot wall, which has a row of lights all around it, surrounds the compound which had a fleet of heavily tinted Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs).

Residents believe the compound housed a casino which operated daily, and included armed security and a limousine chauffeur service to take clients home after heavy gambling.

It was purely by accident that the police stumbled upon a cache of arms, ammunition and drugs during a search carried out on Thursday at Karamath’s residence as part of the on-going probe into alleged corrupt activities at the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (Udecott).

Officers of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB), led by Senior Superintendent Solomon Koon Koon, said yesterday they went to the mansion with a search warrant for documents and material to assist them in the Udecott matter.

Karamath’s construction company had received contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the most high profile of which was to build the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba.

However, during the search the ACIB officers found more than documents and suspect contracts.

They found in a bedroom in the western side of the mansion, boxes containing 18 high-powered guns and ammunition, which have since been traced to the Far East.

The weapons were 12 semi-automatic handguns, two high-powered rifles, two AK-47s and two submachine pistols. Forty-five 9 mm rounds, 12- gauge shotgun shells, .22 ammunition, .302 ammunition and 7.6 rounds were also found.

Apart from the cache of arms and ammunition, officers found equipment used in the processing of high-end exotic hallucinogens.

They discovered labelled bottles and packages containing drugs such as green cockroach, buba kush, sweet kush, Hawaiian kush, lemon skunk, lavender, LA Confidential, salmon, exodus cheese, hash, marijuana seedlings and an assortment of dried mushrooms. Four bongs and a hookah — devices used for smoking—as well as gas masks and other apparatus were also found.

This prompted the ACIB officers to call in officers of the Organised Crime, Narcotics and Firearms Unit who seized the guns, ammunition and drugs. Sources, who were present at the mansion, said six relatives of the late millionaire, including two women, a man, and three young persons between the ages 15 to 29 were detained.

None of the occupants had a firearm users licence.

“We have no information as to the real use of the firearms found in the house, we are exploring the possibility that it may have been used for rental or protection, but once charges are laid against individuals, the weapons will be sent to Forensic (Science Centre) for analysis to determine if they have ever been used,” a senior ACIB officer said yesterday.

He said Karamath had a firearm user’s licence and owned a security firm.

The six suspects were taken to the Port-of-Spain CID late Thursday night.

The two women were transferred yesterday to the Woodbrook Police Station, while the four men were taken to the Central Police Station.

Their attorneys met with them and the police yesterday.

They told Newsday the police said charges were expected to be laid against their clients by today.At about 2 pm yesterday, the six were taken to the office of the ACIB at Independence Square, Port-of-Spain, where they were interviewed for several hours.

Newsday understands that because of the circumstances in which the drugs, arms and ammunition were found, the ACIB had to discuss with Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard the charges to be laid against the six.

Officers also plan to return to the Valsayn mansion today. A report on the raid has been sent to Acting Commissioner of Police James Philbert and National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who has jurisdiction for the ACIB, praised the officers for their work and said he has been advised that apart from the seized illicit items, officers also took possession of a quantity of documents and other materials related to the Udecott investigation.

The ACIB officers also raided Hafeez Karamath Construction Ltd (HKL) in San Juan on Thursday and seized a quantity of documents, including contracts and computers.

Karamath’s brother Ellis Karamath, the new owner HKL, did not answer calls to his cell phone for comment yesterday.

Nalinee Seelal, Newsday.

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