Police acted promptly in hoax kidnapping case - Trim
-but can learn a lot from incident
Stabroek News
December 19, 2003

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Deputy Commissioner of Law Enforcement, Superintendent Leon Trim said he disagrees with persons who have accused the police force of not acting promptly enough in last week's hoax kidnapping case, but said that the force has learnt a lot from the incident.

"That is incorrect," he contended in an interview on Wednesday with the Government Information Agency (GINA). Trim was referring to the episode involving 17-year-old Victor Ali, a Sixth Form student of St Stanislaus College, who has been charged with staging his own kidnapping in an effort to extort money from his father, a Trinidadian national.

According to a release from GINA, the Crime Chief explained that as soon as the kidnapping report was received, an anti-crime unit, comprising officers trained in anti-kidnapping measures overseas, was organised and dispatched to Ali's home.

"He further stated that [Ali's] relatives were interviewed and the police listened to the phone calls made by the perpetrators to relatives. Other procedures were followed and this led to the arrests of two persons who had gone to a trash can to collect the ransom money.

This action further led police to the house where [Ali] was hiding and where other occupants of the house were subsequently arrested. On realising that the kidnapping had been staged, [Ali] and occupants of the house were charged," the release stated.

However, the Crime Chief did not touch on concerns raised by some of the persons detained in the hoax that the police never arrested Ali, even after investigators had gathered evidence showing his involvement.

Ali, a 16-year-old classmate and two other young men had allegedly made calls to Ali's father demanding $1M for his safe return. The following day, the police intercepted two persons who had gone to the drop off spot to retrieve the ransom and were led to a house on the Lamaha railway embankment where Ali was found hiding under a bed.

That day, the police, as well as the Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj and the Commissioner of Police (ag) Floyd McDonald hailed the "rescue" a success.

The next day, the police had to retract their statement, claiming instead, "the details of the investigation so far seem to suggest that the alleged victim may have been part of the overall plan to fake a kidnapping".

However, although the three other persons implicated in the scam were kept in custody, Ali was never arrested. His father, after realising what had happened, handed the boy over to the authorities several days later.

Nonetheless, Trim told GINA that the police "have learnt a lot from this incident and will act swiftly, use different procedures and investigate such reports thoroughly in the future to ascertain whether a kidnapping is true or staged."

He warned that persons who intend to carry out similar escapades would be dealt with seriously. "We want to send a strong message out there to any youth or person who is so inclined to get involved in such plots...that we are going to take firm action against them."

Touching on the penalties for such a crime, Trim told GINA that there are adequate laws to deal with accused persons, albeit not under the recently passed Kidnapping Act.

"We may not, under the act, find an offence to deal with persons involved in such crime, but there are other offences in 8:01. For example, we have extortion, demanding money with menace and conspiracy...So there are still sections to adequately deal with anyone who is involved in such crime," Trim pointed out.

The crime chief said that it is very important for laws to be established to enable the police to intercept calls via wire-tapping and arrange other methods to deal with serious kidnapping cases.