Hinds withdraws statement made against firearms dealer

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Hinds withdraws statement made against firearms dealer

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds has withdrawn claims that firearms dealer Towfeek Ali failed to produce records to police, during an audit of his dealership, because the records had been stolen.

The minister had also claimed that Ali failed to report the theft to police.

He made these claims on June 4 during a press conference at his ministry office on Abercromby Street in Port of Spain, during which, Hinds spoke of his frustration that many anti-crime initiatives were being wilfully thwarted.

However, in a brief press release sent to media yesteday, Hinds said he was withdrawing all claims made against Ali. The last sentence of the release said, “The statement therefore being erroneous, is hereby withdrawn.”

At the briefing on June 4, Hinds lamented the brazen quadruple murder incident on June 2 in which gunmen fired on a group of limers following a football game in Gonzales, killing one man on the spot.

The gunmen drove behind a van as it took several shooting victims to the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH). They gunned down one of the Gonzales victims outside the hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department. Two other victims were later pronounced dead on arrival.

The minister used the press conference to lament gun proliferation in Trinidad and Tobago. He claimed there was a diversion of many legally purchased high-powered firearms and ammunition into illegal hands for criminal intent. Hinds claimed local gun-dealers were focused on making money, while his focus was on public safety and order.

He alleged a court affidavit related to a 2022 police audit of Ali’s company, the Firearms Training Institute, had reported a theft of certain records and Ali also failing to report same.

His claims were shot down by Ali’s wife, attorney Nyree Alfonso, who is also a director in her husband’s firearms dealership.

According to a story in Newsday’s June 5 edition, Alfonso said: “No dealer has been charged, yet the streets are awash with blood. It is nothing to do with the legal dealers.”

Saying the allegations arose as “a figment of a minister’s beleaguered psyche,” Alfonso said she is considering her legal options.

Hinds’s retraction statement on June 5 said, “As part of my contribution to the media, I suggested that Mr Towfeek Ali was identified in a court affidavit as the gun dealer who was unable to produce his records when required to do so by the police, explained that the said records were stolen, and that no report was made to the police.

“I here state, that that aspect of my statement was erroneous, as Mr Ali was not identified in the court document, as the dealer.

“The statement therefore being erroneous, is hereby withdrawn.”