Head of Airport Security, Inspector Desmond Richards, has given reassurance that the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) remains one of the safest in the world amidst allegations that two of his security officers attempted to use a passenger’s luggage to smuggle
“The airport (MBIA) is still one of the safest in the world,” Richards told reporters outside the St. George’s No.1 Magistrate’s Court.
His comments were made on December 30 following the appearance in court of the accused persons, Supervisor of Airport Security, Donnett Hillaire, 31, from Happy Hill, St. George and his subordinate, Jaron Mitchell, 28, of Marian, St. George.
“You don’t find those things happening (at MBIA) every single day,” he said, noting that since the incident new security measures have been instituted “to ensure that bags are more carefully checked and places where persons are not allowed are shut down.”
“We are now introducing a Canine unit (also referred to as a K-9 unit) as part of the whole mechanism to deal with some of the suspected transactions that takes place on the airport and the other ports,” he added.
Additionally, Insp. Richards disclosed that a number of cameras were purchased to assist with the security operations in “critical areas” at MBIA.
THE NEW TODAY understands that Hillaire and John were detained at approximately 4.00 p.m on Sunday, December 27, 2015 in a room that they occupied, after 5.32 kilograms of cocaine was allegedly found in their possession inside a passenger’s suitcase.
Reports suggest that the passenger had previously checked in for the afternoon Delta Airways flight out bound to the John F. Kennedy International Airport at Queens, New York.
Information reaching this newspaper is that the security officers fell under the microscope after their alleged suspicious behavior attracted the close attention of some of their colleagues.
A search that was carried out led to the discovery of the drugs estimated to carry a street value of more than EC$500, 000.
Hillarie and Mitchell were taken into custody and slapped with three indictable charges – possession and trafficking of a controlled drug and conspiring with each other and other persons to traffic a controlled drug.
The suspects appeared before Chief Magistrate Tamara Gill, at the No. 1 Magistrate’s Court in St. George’s, accompanied by their lawyer Peter David of Ciboney Chambers.
Mitchell, the son of well-known steel pan arranger, David ‘Peck’ Edwards was granted bail in the sum of EC$500, 000 with 3 sureties but Hillaire was not so lucky.
However, Mitchell was ordered to surrender all travel documents, seek permission from the Court to leave the State and report to the Central Police Station every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between the hours of 6.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m.
Hillaire, who was promoted last October from the position of Acting Supervisor of Airport Security, to a full-fledged Supervisor was denied bail by the Chief Magistrate and remanded to the Richmond Hill Prison.
The Police Prosecution team, led by Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Godfrey Victor, strongly objected to bail for Hillaire, out of fear that he may be a flight risk.
ASP Victor informed the court that the accused was expected to take some time off from work during the first week of January to visit his wife, who is currently employed as a nurse in neighouring Trinidad & Tobago.
He drew the Chief Magistrate’s attention to the recent increase in cocaine confiscation at MBIA, as well as Hillaire’s supervisory role, the seriousness of the offences and the breach of trust in his capacity as a Supervisor at his place of employment.
The lead Police Prosecutor also noted that one of the main roles of security officers at MBIA is to detect and prevent illicit drugs or substances from entering or leaving the jurisdiction.
In his unsuccessful attempt to secure bail for Hillarie, Attorney David reminded the court that at this stage, the charges brought against both accused men are mere allegations and according to law both suspects are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
However, Chief Magistrate Gill took the decision to make a distinction in administering bail as requested for both Mitchell and Hillaire.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the man, whose luggage was targeted to transport the drugs, is a Grenadian national residing in New York.
The man, whose name is being withheld, visited the island to spend the Christmas holidays with family members.
Insp. Richards acknowledged that incidents of this kind can compromise the integrity of the security operations at the airport, but held the view that this particular incident would not affect MBIA’s image.
“We have done tremendous work in terms of building the image and integrity (of the airport). I don’t think that (the incident), while it shows a little dent, would do too much damage to what we are building,” he said.
“In fact we have some systems in place that we can’t really mention on camera, to ensure that a lot of these things do not happen and if it does the persons are caught”, he said.
The MBIA Security Chief stated that only the relevant person have access to security tapes, which would be “reviewed daily to see what is taking place in these critical areas (so) that we can mitigate against any future negatives that may arise.”
The two arrested MBIA Security officers are due back in court on January 19.