Baines denies police lied about raid
Suspected corrupt police officers are under investigation over the theft of more than 50 kilograms of cocaine and ganja from the George Town Police Station, Commissioner David Baines has acknowledged.
Mr. Baines said there was an active investigation that involved multiple warrants being executed as well as internal inquiries into the suspected involvement of corrupt officers in what he described as a “well-planned, well-coordinated attack on the police property.”
Speaking on the “CrossTalk” morning talk show on Rooster FM on Friday, Mr. Baines said there were “clearly corrupt police officers” involved. He denied that police had lied when they initially reported that nothing had been taken in the July 13 break-in.
He said investigators were not immediately aware that drugs had been stolen from the evidence locker, which contains more than 18,000 exhibits. It was not until around a week after the incident that it emerged the drugs had been taken, he said.
After this was confirmed by an audit of the evidence locker, he said he reported the development to government and the National Security Council but took an “operational decision to pursue lines of inquiry covertly.”
At that time, he said, warrants were being executed and it would have been foolish to broadcast the scope of the investigation and tip off the suspects.
A police spokesperson confirmed Monday that there had been no specific arrests in relation to the break-in, though the investigation continues.
It was two months after the theft before police acknowledged in response to media inquiries that a “quantity of drugs” had been stolen.
Under questioning from legislators in October, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson further revealed that 24 kilograms of cocaine and 33 kilograms of ganja had been taken.
Mr. Baines, speaking for the first time about the incident on Friday, said two investigations were ongoing.
“One is an internal one. Someone’s clearly given information internally about where those drugs are supposed to be or will be. That’s one side. Secondly, I’ve got a criminal investigation against suspects who have been identified,” Mr. Baines said.
“The issue is to not sit there and say ‘let’s try and hide and pretend this didn’t happen.’ It is about tactically using the information. It is better for me to stay quiet while we allow the investigation to take place.”
In a heated exchange with host Kenneth Bryan on the morning talk show, the host suggested the public had a right to know that corrupt officers were operating on the force.
The commissioner replied, “Do you not think it is more important to catch them?”
He said releasing too much information could have compromised the investigation and a potential future court case.
He said pursuing the investigation covertly “gives me the best chance to ensure your safety is preserved, so we don’t just say somebody is involved, we put a head on a spike and remove them from the organization …
“If I’ve got corrupt officers, I don’t need to just broadcast it. I need to do something positive. I need to get evidence. I need to convict them and get them out of the service.”