Scandal: AG Benjamin, police force must act

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Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, attorney general and minister of public safety and Wendell Robinson, commissioner of Police, have been accused of being unresponsive to the glaring auction fiasco at the Customs and Excise Division.
The fiasco, or auction scandal, has already seen the man at its centre, former Senator Michael Freeland, having to resign from the Senate and leave his post as an auctioneer over his involvement, yet neither the police nor the Office of the Attorney General are known to have taken any action in the matter.
Commenting on the scandal yesterday, Dr. David Hinds, political analyst, said that the Attorney General’s office is “critical” in resolving the ongoing mystery of when and why Freeland failed to surrender $119,866.50 in state auction proceeds to the state. Dr. Hinds said that once informed about Freeland’s actions, Gaston Browne, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, “should have immediately turned this matter overto the attorney general,” whom he said “has an obligation to mount an investigation as to whether any law was broken.”
Yet, Benjamin has twice avoided answering that very question from OBSERVER media reporters, once in December and again in January. Dr. Hinds said that Benjamin’s inaction is tantamount to “dereliction of duty” in the military sense. Meanwhile, Rishi Maharaj, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Trinidad-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), Disclosure Today, has said that the police have more than enough information to begin an investigation into the affair.
Maharaj also said that Raju Boddu, Comptroller of Customs and head of the Customs and Excise Division, should have informed the police immediately once Freeland failed to surrender the government’s money. Freeland however, entered an arrangement with the Customs and Excise Division to repay the sum. The date of the arrangement and the date and amounts of the payments remain undisclosed to the public.
Dr. Hinds agreed that there is “enough information” for the police to “take some initiative and begin to investigate this matter.” Yet the Commissioner of Police has never indicated that an investigation into the scandal is ongoing. In fact, when contacted to verify whether another aspect of the scandal involving the alleged filing of a police report was true or false, Robinson at first said that he could neither conform nor deny such a report’s existence, then he ignored numerous successive appeals for the same information.
Both Dr. Hinds and Maharaj were speaking on OBSERVER radio’s Big Issues programme on Sunday. The auction scandal surrounds Freeland, who in 2016, reportedly took possession of 119,866.50 in state auction proceeds and simply failed to give the money to the government as he was required so to do.

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