PORT OF SPAIN –– In a surprise move yesterday, close to 15 police officers from the Fraud Squad, armed with a search warrant, raided the offices of the Police Social Welfare Association (PSWA) at the upper floor of the Besson Street Police Station in Port of Spain. The area around the station was cordoned off while the raid was taking place.
Newsday was told the search was for documents relating to alleged fraudulent conversion regarding applications for state homes.
The PSWA was given responsibility in the past of presenting a list of names of police officers whose lives are at risk, or who fall under a certain category so as to qualify them for Housing Development Corporation (HDC) homes. Hundreds of officers apply for HDC homes, and a list is forwarded to the HDC for consideration.
At about 12:30 p.m., Senior Superintendent Dookie of the Fraud Squad, accompanied by 14 officers, presented a search warrant to PSWA president Inspector Anand Ramesar indicating that the Fraud Squad officers had instructions from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP ) to carry out the search. Ramesar and members of his executive were at the time preparing for a meeting in the boardroom when the officers arrived.
Sources revealed that Ramesar’s office was searched, as well as that of PSWA secretary Inspector Michael Seales who is on suspension from active duty.
Officers also searched the boardroom and filing room.
The raid, Newsday was told, was prompted after several reports were lodged to senior officers by police officers who claimed their colleagues were presenting “bribe money” in exchange for fast tracking of the applications for HDC homes.
Ramesar who left the Besson Street Police Station shortly after the searches began stoutly defended his association and staff, claiming that at no time was any money collected to fast-track any application to the HDC.
Ramesar believes the raid was meant to discredit the PSWA and its executives. He opined that he would not be surprised if the raid leads to him being suspended just like his colleague Insp Seales.
He believes the action was prompted by senior officers in the Police Service who are against certain moves made by the PSWA.
“I believe this is a calcualted effort to embarrass the association, and it also appears to be connected to the stance by the association that the vacation leave buyout of first division officers ought not to be a practice in the service,” Ramesar said .
“I want to state on record that at no time was the association engaged in fraudulent conversion and this is part of a conspircay to destabilize this executive,” Ramesar said adding that he was not even aware that an investigation was underway to precipitate the raid .
Fraud Squad sources told Newsday they had carried out a thorough probe into allegations regarding alleged fraudulent conversion and sought directions from the DPP on the matter.