Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. (File photo)

ST. VINCENT (Jan. 20):- Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has told Parliament that the police have arrested and charged with “serious offences, not relating to the conspiracy of murder”, an assassin hired to kill him.

Gonsalves said that while the hit-man was remanded to prison without bail,  police did not charged him with conspiracy to murder “because the security authorities are keen at protecting the most valuable intelligence sources”.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, said in a Ministerial Statement that the criminal was nabbed at the end of a one-week man-hunt.

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The search yielded one high-powered assault weapon and security authorities are still searching for another such weapon, “which had been in the contract-killer’s possession”.

Gonsalves said the conspiracy to murder him was hatched by “two major drug trafficking and money-laundering entities” in the country. The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) received “substantial funding” for last month’s election from the two crime syndicates, he said.

Gonsalves told Parliament that his information came from “impeccable intelligence sources” and that he was saying as much as he was “permitted to reveal”.

He said the plan to kill him was orchestrated within one week of the Dec. 13 general elections, which his Unity Labour Party won by a single seat to remain in office for a third straight term.

However, according to Gonsalves, within 36 hours of the prisoner’s incarceration, he obtained a cell-phone at the Prisons and kept in contact with those who had hired him.

A police raid at the Prisons netted eight cell phones, none of  which was on the person of any prisoner, Gonsalves said.

The prisoner has since secured another cell phone and “was in touch briefly with certain persons outside the Prisons,” Gonsalves said, adding that security authorities are yet to find that phone.

Gonsalves further said that within 24 hours of that contract-killer’s apprehension one of the “cocaine trafficker’s–money launderers” contacted another local operative “to do a job” but that person declined “when he learnt that the target was the Prime Minister”.

The two cocaine traffickers-money launderers then hired a Trinidadian killer, who came to SVG but is yet to be arrested by police “despite diligent and extensive searches”.

Gonsalves said that over the past five years, the security authorities and the Income Tax Department have been placing immense pressure on the major operatives in these two cocaine trafficking and money-laundering entities.

“Much success has been chalked up against them, including the incarceration of at least one major player.  Especially hard-hit have been their money and other assets.  These cocaine traffickers and money-launderers are feeling the heat and have become desperate. Knowingly or unknowingly some political and social personalities have become enmeshed in their operations,” he said.

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“I assure Vincentians that so long as I am Prime Minister I shall never allow St. Vincent and the Grenadines to become like some Latin American and other Caribbean countries where cocaine traffickers and money-launderers are allowed the space to successfully build gangs, control territory and communities, perpetrate criminal activities as untouchables, and pollute the streams of our democratic and political processes,” Gonsalves further said.

He said his government “is resolved to give these criminals and their associates at home and in the region absolutely no space to flourish…

“Believe me, I am not afraid of them,” Gonsalves further said.

“I repeat:  They will be accorded no space to flourish.  I advise those who are tempted for whatever reason to ally themselves to these criminals to stay in their batting crease!” Gonsalves said.

Immediately after Gonsalves’ statement, Leader of the Opposition and NDP president Arnhim Eustace asked if Gonsalves was saying that the NDP is involved in any plot to kill him or is linked to persons the Gonsalves spoke about.

“I have the responsibility for national security. The last occasion when I took the Honourable Leader of the Opposition into my confidence he broke it. I do not intend to answer any of his questions on these matters either here (in the House of Assembly), or outside, which touch upon national security, which I’m not obliged to answer,” Gonsalves said.

“Indeed, the Rules of this Honourable House would prevent him from asking me certain types of questions,” Gonsalves said, adding “there is good reason for that”.