Two recent fires at premises owned by the state-controlled Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB) are being treated as acts of arson, a well-placed police officer has told THE NEW TODAY newspaper.
The officer who did not wish to be named said that a number of persons have already been interviewed by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) as part of the ongoing investigation.
The mysterious fires affected the MNIB Depot at River Road in St. George’s.
The first fire took place on January 26 and the other one six days later on February 2.
The officer who spoke on condition that he was not identified, said that the probe into the fires has taken a new turn in light of the now wider investigation into MNIB by the Integrity Commission, for alleged corruption and financial wrong-doings.
This newspaper understands that a fire expert from neighbouring Trinidad & Tobago was called in to assist the Fire Department of the local police force in trying to ascertain the causes of both fires.
According to the source, there was enough evidence within the building which led firemen to conclude that the fires were deliberately set in order to destroy evidence.
“The fire did not start in one place but at different places in the building. It is quite obvious that the person or persons wanted to set the place ablaze to destroy documents”, he said.
Integrity Commission member, Robert Robinson who is leading the investigation into wrong-doing at MNIB, told reporters last week Wednesday that the fires will also form part of the probe.
The source said that the CID investigation is at an advanced and delicate stage of investigation but extreme care and caution is being exercised before any charges could be pressed against anyone.
THE NEW TODAY understands that among the persons who offered information to the police about the fire were the wife of a police officer, as well as a Security Guard attached to a private security company that was working in the vicinity of the MNIB Depot at River Road.
The source said that the lady in question was in the area and saw a suspicious person close to the building minutes before the fire started.
“We do not live too far and by the time we reach home – less than 15 minutes later we hear fire at MNIB”, a source quoted the lady as saying.
The woman reportedly visited the CID to provide information to the lawmen on the person who is believed to be the brother of a person of interest to the police in the fire.
The husband who is also an Inspector of Police and was present with his wife on the night of the fire has not been interviewed by his colleagues as to what he saw on the night around the MNIB compound.
The source said: “The question that one now has to ask is this – were the fires linked to what has currently emerged? Was someone trying to destroy documents?
“This MNIB investigation is much bigger than the Integrity Commission and Scotland Yard should be called in to help us get at the bottom of the corruption at the Marketing Board”, he added.
He went on: “It is clear by now that a lot has been happening at MNIB and that fingers should not be pointed at only one man. I am sure that there are others who were engaged in serious corruption and wrong-doing and were trying to burn down the building to hide evidence”.
Former Chief Executive Officer of MNIB, Ruel Edwards also visited CID to offer a statement on the fire at the River Road Depot.
MNIB is said to be in dire financial straits and left struggling with a massive debt in the region of EC$4 million.
A number of farmers have complained of not being able to get payment for produce sold to Marketing Board in recent weeks.