PORT OF SPAIN ––A man, who sparked panic among Trincity Mall patrons and employees after making a hoax call warning of an imminent terrorist attack, was arrested by police hours after the incident thanks to the help of the Strategic Security Agency (SSA).
Addressing media at an emergency press conference at the Police Administration Building, Port of Spain, yesterday, acting National Security Minister Stuart Young revealed that the suspect had been arrested by police after the call was traced with the assistance of the SSA.
While Young refused to divulge details about the suspect, he did say he was arrested with the phone used to place the call to police in his possession. The suspect remained in custody up to late last night and is expected to be charged later Friday.
While Young declined to speculate on possible charges for the suspect, the T&T Guardian understands that he is to be charged with the wasteful employment of police time. If convicted, the offence carries a maximum $1,000 fine and up to six months imprisonment.
Young said around 11:45 a.m. yesterday, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Command Centre received a call from a male who said that “something would happen” at the mall within 15 minutes.
“Within a matter of minutes both the Special Branch and Criminal Gang and Intelligence Unit (CGIU) were able to assemble at Trincity Mall and have conversations with the owners of mall, who then took the decision to evacuate it,” Young said.
He said the TTPS’s Bomb Unit searched the mall for close to three hours and gave the owners permission to reopen the facility after no suspicious packages or devices were found.
“A very orderly evacuation took place, there were absolutely no shots fired, as being circulated,” he said.
Young also dispelled rumours of a similar threat being made on Long Circular Mall, St James, Thursday, as he said the mall’s management, which is the same as for Trincity Mall, took a precautionary measure to close the second establishment as only a handful of tenants — a supermarket, gym and radio station — were open on the Corpus Christi public holiday.
The hoax call comes days after a voice note warning of a possible Isis attack on shopping malls acrosss Trinidad and Tobago this weekend was posted on social media websites and circulated on messaging services. No one has been arrested in connection with that warning and the TTPS is continuing investigations.
Young Thursday thanked the police for the efficient work is diffusing the situation.
“This shows that the law enforcement agencies are working in the best interest of the citizens of T&T and that the training and intelligence gathering and preparation worked,” he said.
As he praised the work of the SSA in assisting police in apprehending the suspect, Young said the newly-passed SSA (Ammendment) Bill would increase the ability of national security agencies to respond to threats.
The SSA’s ambit under the amendment would extend to collecting information, not only on drug issues [as it currently does] but on a host of offences listed as “serious crime.” This includes treason, sedition, terrorism, terrorist financing, corruption, money laundering and other crimes.
“As a Government we do believe that once that bill is assented to and proclaimed it is going to add another level of sophistication to the crime fighting which is taking place in T&T,” he said.