Trinidad beverage company denies involvement in multi-million dollar cocaine bust

trinidad cocaine bustPORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday January 20, 2014, CMC – The local beverage manufacturer, SM Jaleel & Co Ltd, Monday sought to distance itself from a multi-million drug bust in the United States insisting that it has had an “unblemished reputation around the world for over 30 years”.

The company has launched a series of media advertisements to clear its name as newspaper reports indicate that investigators from the United States have arrived here to investigate the US$600 million cocaine bust.

“SM Jaleel & Co Ltd is Trinidad and Tobago’s number one exporter of non-petro chemical products, employing over 2000 people in Trinidad and the Caribbean. Given that SM Jaleel ships over 6000 containers per year, along with the unblemished reputation around the world for over 30 years, SM Jaleel is a natural target,” the advertisements read, insisting that the company “did not export the container of juices with cocaine to the USA”.

Last Thursday, Federal officials announced that they had found 732 pounds of cocaine last December 20 concealed in cans of fruit juice at the Port of Norfolk in Virginia.

Investigators estimate the cocaine had a wholesale value of about US$12 million and a street value of up to US$100 million.

Customs and Border Protection Area Port Director Mark J. Laria called the seizure a record for a single interdiction in the port of Hampton Roads.

“This was a cold hit. There was no specific intelligence,” Laria said.

The cocaine was found inside a shipping container that originated from Trinidad and Tobago. It was destined for New York.

The company said since it did not ship the container, “then who did? The public needs to know”.

“We have been reliably informed that the container in question was shipped from Port of Spain to Norfolk, Virginia. SM Jaleel & Co ltd ships to the USA with Seaboard Marine from the Point Lisas port to Brooklyn, New York.”

Meanwhile, the state-owned National Export Facilitation of Trinidad and Tobago (ExportTT) said a review of SM Jaleel & Co Ltd “exports of Trinidad Juices to the United States of America during the year 2013 indicate four shipments all from the Port of Pt Lisas to Brooklyn NY.

“The last shipment being in November 2013. The Shipping Line used by S M Jaleel and Company Limited has always been Seaboard Marine.”

Media reports said that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials are scheduled to meet with Customs and Excise officials on Monday as part of their investigations into the drug bust. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)