4th of July 2019. 95 kg of cocaine worth 1,4 billion rupees were seized underneath a “tractopelle” in Pailles. Seven months later, no one has been arrested nor has the inquiry made any progress. The surprising element around the “tractopelle” drugs is that there is no hue and cry around the absence of inquiry.
Why is it that some persons are still under the radar of the ADSU in the case of the cylinders from South Africa?
In all other cases where ships, cars and other vehicles are involved in a drug transaction, whether directly or indirectly, people are arrested and kept in custody for long periods of time under the guise of “inquiry is still in progress” because there is international ramification.
But why is it that in the case of the “tractopelle” there is an eerie silence which seems to satisfy all the curiosities of all sections of the population? Even during the electoral campaign, the “tractopelle” was not made an issue by the opposition. No need to be a rocket scientist! I leave it to your imagination.
Is it because there is no political will? Is it because the opposition has no time to think about the real issues concerning the “tractopelle” or is it that when some people are involved blindness runs the day?
Is it because our so-called omniscient leaders have only time to cut the ribbons?
I am not blaming ADSU! ADSU does not have the means to really combat drug trafficking in Mauritius. Despite millions spent on the Commission of Inquiry on Drugs, ADSU has not been reformed as it should nor been given the means to really combat drug trafficking.
A digression is important to understand the impotence of ADSU despite the zeal and honesty of the quasi majority of its dedicated officers:
- Not enough human resources! Will you believe that all units of ADSU around the island are depleted. For example, Airport ADSU has no inspectors to inquire properly thus, causing a backlog of cases which in itself is tantamount to giving the wrong signal to organised crime. Any delay in drug inquiry will eventually lead to witnesses leaving the country or disappearing forever. In the case of Kisnah, one Ramdin is still wanted by the police and no reward has been put forward to try to get all of him despite the fact that the police knows he is an essential cog in the whole drug transaction between Nigeria – South Africa-Mauritius-Australia. I have several times written to the ADSU and members of the government to use the system of reward to get information but up to now to no avail. I understand it was even raised at the highest level but for reasons which defy logic offering rewards in cases of drugs have been set aside. Americans and many modern democratic countries use the reward to get proper information but in Mauritius, we are closing our eyes. Unfortunately, we do so not only for drug cases but also for murder cases. Surprisingly, we used it only when detainees escaped from prisons.
- Drug trafficking has become a national scourge and yet ADSU units are only in some areas thus, leaving acres of land without any regular inspection. Why have we not set up ADSU units in all areas of habitation of more than 40,000 people.
- Not enough women ADSU officers which means that arrests and searches are delayed because of the increasing involvement of women in drug trafficking.
- No basic equipment:
- No photocopy machines, and if there is one, no money for the ink or no paper whenever the stock has been used. If ever the photocopy machine has had a breakdown then do not rely to have another one before 3 financial years;
- No fax machines and the majority of them are not in working conditions;
- No email facilities and social media facilities;
- No modern walkie talkies/ No good mobile telephones with secured lines. The drug traffickers have the most modern telephones which can be used via satellite. The ADSU officers have telephones which will be relinquished and mocked by our teenagers;
- No system of proper reward for informers to obtain a vital piece of information which could lead to the dismantling of a drug ring. ADSU officers have to pay from their own pockets or turn a blind eye to minor illegal activities, or sometimes arrest the person and don’t object to his /her release on bail which could lead to attract the wrath of a young Magistrate who is not aware of how the drug traffickers work....
- Delay in getting a warrant specially during weekends and public holidays. The law has not been amended to give wider powers to the ADSU officers as it is in many countries. Why worry about the powers to superintendent of police if the warrants will be executed under camera as it is done in England, America and France.
- No cars/ vans/ motorcycles of quality which can compete with the powerful motor vehicles of the drug traffickers. Visit the “showroom” of ICAC and you will have a glimpse of the quality and the power of the motor vehicles at the disposal of the drug traffickers. The ADSU officers are tattooed with the same vehicles. The drug traffickers send a “Jockey” (one who will do the menial job of the boss) to sit in front of the ADSU office or any unit, with the specific job of taking snapshots of all the vehicles, which will then be channelled to all sellers who usually have a “tamtam” (the person who is paid to sit in strategic areas to watch the movement of ADSU motor vehicles) and who will then relay any information to the “Malin” (usually the boss assistant and more computer literate) who will immediately give the necessary orders to transfer the parcel of drugs to another “Tekwan” (Hiding Place). ADSU officers are often oblivious to the alternative “Tekwan”.
- No system of bank holidays thus dehydrating all ADSU officers in a system which does not give a damn about fairness in promotion exercise. Brief explanation: An ADSU officer who has conducted a successful raid after a long period of surveillance must stay at the office at least until all the exhibits have been photographed, sealed, in presence of the accused or accused parties, which are then transferred to the exhibit room. So, if all the preliminaries have ended in the early hours of the morning, he/she must take a booster to be in court in the next following hours... After the ordeal in court, He/she must return to work if he /she is on night shift.
- No office of ADSU is equipped with video camera which is essential to record statement(s) without losing much time.
- ADSU is also not equipped with modern cameras which can help to prevent any motion of abuse, to record any raid.
- ADSU officers can’t go to prison to record statements from prisoners after 3pm on weekdays or during weekends. Are we acting swiftly or deliberately delaying the process? In the interests of whom?
- Clothing allowance (whether to be in mufti for court appearances or for conferences with youngsters), risk allowance is mere lip service but nothing....
- Today it is vital that the telephones seized from accused parties are inspected immediately by the IT unit but unfortunately in Mauritius the ADSU unit will have to take an appointment as the IT unit itself is undermanned and there is not enough apparatus to proceed with the examination of the telephones. What does it mean? Those who are involved can erase all traces or fabricate all sorts of defences. Speed is of the essence and yet we are deliberately slow.
- ADSU has no automatic access to the list of calls received / made by the accused parties. An affidavit must be sworn. Because of the heavy workload of the solicitors at the AG’s office, it takes months before the affidavit is prepared and sworn or affirmed. Once it is ready, the necessary motion has to be made before a judge which again takes time as there is no judge who is deputed to treat these sorts of affidavits with a sense of urgency. A simple meeting between the Prime Minister's office and the Chief Justice would have surely cured that delay which is causing havoc not only for the inquiry but also for the detainees who are deprived of bail. Once the judge has pronounced his/her order, the service providers usually take six months to nine months and sometimes more to give the list of telephone calls received and made including sms which could have been done within one hour of receiving the judges’ order by the click of the mouse. Here again, a meeting between the Prime Minister and the service providers would have surely cured the delay which is an objective ally of the great drug traffickers.
The above list is non-exhaustive...
ADSU and CID officers share one thing in common:
They work in conditions which will put to shame all those who know basic Health and Safety Regulations and Laws.
Confidentiality is alien due to the tiny cubicles where statements are recorded. Recording of statements, discussing among colleagues what questions should be put to the accused, strategy, tactics, verifying the credibility of any informer, making multiple phone calls which are often vital for a successful raid, preparing bail motions or any requests are done in open without any confidentiality as ADSU officers work in offices like sardines in a tin.
No need to expatiate on the lack of toilets, air conditioning, ventilators, towels, water facilities, kettles, place to eat…
What has not been done in the “tractopelle” case?
- No fingerprint and palmprint of the “tractopelle”- Inside – outside- underneath... complete fingerprinting. Nothing at all.
- No DNA printout of the “tractopelle” has been carried out. Some officers believe too easily that because of contamination nothing of value will be obtained. NO! One single thumb print (even partial) or “partial DNA print out” can unlock otherwise cold case and the DNA exercise should have been carried out on the “tractopelle”. Not even a millimetre must be left out. It’s still not too late.
- An inventory of all those who have merely touched the “tractopelle” should be carried out. Here I am referring from the time the “tractopelle” has accosted within the Mauritian territory up to the time the drugs were discovered by the employees of the local firm in Pailles. The second part of the inventory must concern all those, who have been in contact with the ““tractopelle”” after the discovery of the drugs. I have been given to understand that no register has been kept and worse it is not even the habit of our inquiry teams to do so.
- It is a pity that no DNA test was carried out on any person working on the vessel which brought the “tractopelle” to Mauritius. On the vessel Hoegh Antwerp working on a Bahamas flag. Not even the names of crew members of the vessel are in possession of ADSU. I am sure the captain of the vessel would neither have objected to communicate the names, nor refused to cooperate for finger printing/ DNA tests. No vessel can enter Mauritius exclusive maritime zone without permission of the local authorities. Up to now, no official request has been sent to the company owning Hoegh Antwerp which vessel was built in 2013.
- Up to now no official request has been sent to Spain/ Morocco/Belgium/South Africa for mutual assistance. It is to be noted that Antwerp is a port where recently many seizures of cocaine of high quality and value have been carried out by the authorities in Belgium.
- Were there any Mauritians who in Spain/Morocco/South Africa/Belgium have been in contact with any crew member? Note that the value of the drugs dictates that those behind the importation would not for any reason leave the drugs without any constant surveillance. Drugs are followed like milk boiling over the cooker.
The monitoring of the telephone calls is imperative but in the present matter the ADSU must go further, that is, filtrate all the calls from the vessel from Hoegh Antwerp which transported the “tractopelle”. Still the ADSU should inquire whether there have been calls from the management of the crew and crew members to Mauritius. Seven months later, it is an uphill exercise to carry out but still possible with all modern technological tools. The hurdle that should be overcome by any investigative team is the failure by ADSU to get the list of the crew members which should have been vetted with the help of Interpol and other international drugs association. There are many subsidiary problems but at least attempts should have been made. Definitely the local contact must have followed/ monitored the drugs. The murderer always returns to the scene of his/her crime. In cases of drugs, the big boss will always monitor where his drugs are. We are talking of about 1.4 billion rupees.
The big vessels or even vessels of lesser size have a system of CCTV. I am given to understand that no request has been made to get any certified copy or at least to view the footage to see if there is anything abnormal. It is to be noted that the security on the vessel was enhanced due to the presence of the “Mauricio”! The company which owns Hoegh Antwerp has stated that its philosophy is: “Substantial efforts are continuously made to equip the vessel with adequate modern lashing and securing devices for efficient protection of the cargo.”
We know that the vessel started from Spain via Morocco to Port Louis, but up to now there has not been any serious follow-up for “mutual assistance”. Note that the repository for mutual assistance in Mauritius is the Attorney General.
- Has there been any request to know who are the persons who have had access to the “tractopelle”?
- Has there been any demand for the CCTV footage of all sea ports where the vessel stopped for one reason or another?
- The list of the names of persons with photos who had access with the vessel?
- What has been the frequency of the correspondence between Interpol and the Mauritian police- ADSU and Customs with their counterparts in Spain / Morocco, Belgium and even South Africa?
- What type of cocaine has been found as per laboratory test? From which country is it from?
- Has that type of cocaine ever been found /detected on the Mauritian territory? So, further tests should have been carried out?
- Has any member of ADSU been delegated to Spain for the sake of the “tractopelle” inquiry? If yes, what has been the outcome? If no, why not?
- Has conversely any member of the Dangerous Drugs Unit of Spain / Morocco/ Belgium/ South Africa visited Mauritius for inquiry?
- There are different types of rewards at the ADSU:
- Rewards for informers
- Rewards for whistle-blowers leading to the dismantling of any drug network (payment is always delayed for many reasons, including the green light must be obtained from the PMO).
- Rewards for ADSU officers who are not rewarded despite many successes. There should be more transparency about the rewards some senior officers benefit more than those who are really behind the success.
The whole reward system should be revamped while keeping the anonymity of the informers.
In order to unlock the “tractopelle” conundrum, I humbly believe that a public appeal for information accompanied with a substantial reward will surely help.
Are the Americans stupid when they give big rewards for any person giving reliable information leading to the arrests or whereabouts of dangerous persons (subjective!) around the world. For the sake of clarity two resounding examples:
- Ben Laden and all his collaborators;
- The whole regime of Sadam Hussein (remember the game of cards with photos ranging from Saddam to Tariq).
The way forward:
What can we do to reignite the inquiry?
- Carry out further tests on the drugs seized not for the quality of the drugs but to know its provenance…
- Conduct DNA tests even if it is rather late and has been manipulated by many unauthorised persons;
- Follow up of the international requests for help;
- Vetting of all calls from the vessel to Mauritius prior to its mooring and calls from the island of Mauritius to the vessel. Unfortunately, I am given to understand that no judge’s orders have been requested to at least monitor some calls of suspicious nature;
- An index of Mauritians who have visited some months before the countries where the drugs have transited.
A new inquiry team
ADSU must not left any stone unturned. A new inquiry team with former ADSU officers like John Ramasawmy, Hector Tuyau and other CID officers like Daniel Monvoisin should be enlisted to give a new dimension to the inquiry. But, please don’t have a commission of inquiry which will only vacuum the taxpayers' money without any result.
It is never too late to conduct an inquiry if there is the necessary will at the highest level.
Time will tell. The silence is definitely deafening!