Organized Crime: The New Beast
Crime has raised its ugly head as we negotiate January. I am not talking about robbery, swindling or murder, which we read about quite often in the newspapers. I have in mind a modern type of crime. It is organized and transnational in nature. In fact, it would not be inaccurate to describe it as the new beast, a kind of modern hydra, which has caught our law enforcers unprepared.
Who would have thought that there exists a Mauritian crime syndicate based in Strasbourg or Saint-Denis in Paris? We now know that it is prepared to kill, to buy influence and spend big money. It deals in drugs and invests in property to launder its proceeds obtained from the sale of drugs. But organized crime is not about drugs only. It also concerns human trafficking. In the northern part of our island the presence of sex workers from Madagascar has been made possible largely as a result of organized crime.
Another affected sector concerns the importation of second-hand cars from the Far East. There appears to be a full-fledged organisation behind fraudulent schemes in this business. Some cars come on the market after their mileage and date of manufacture have been altered. For several years now, many Mauritians have been deceived by fraudsters in this sector. Yet again, without the collaboration of a number of accomplices, including some allegedly from law enforcement agencies, the fraudulent importation of doctored vehicles would not have taken place.
The case of David Fine has all the hallmarks of organized crime and it would be important for the police to strike hard and deter the whole drug gang from operating with impunity.
The death of Fine on 3 January 2010 cannot be separated from the raid carried out by the ADSU on 29 December 2009 at a hotel in the North. First, the murder of Fine takes place some four days after the raid at the hotel. Second, drug is the important nexus. Third, the relatives of one suspected drug trafficker are common factors to both incidents. Fourth, both incidents have a strong flavour of the Paris-Port Louis axis.
The big question mark is the exit of Sivom Paupiah who was allowed to leave Mauritian jurisdiction and so far the explanations put forward by the authorities can at best be qualified as flimsy.
Sivom Paupiah took the flight to France via Reunion. He was released after Tarik Affelous of Maghrebian origin had claimed to be the owner of drugs found in a suitcase recovered on the golf course of the hotel where they were all residing. But the suitcase also contained the passport and e-tickets of Paupiah and the latter’s partner. So that Paupiah could not deny not to have known the existence of the suitcase or at least the whereabouts of his passport. The possibility that it was his suitcase cannot be ruled out. An important sum of money — about Rs 4,000,000 — was also recovered from the suitcase.
The mere fact that Affelous adopts the drugs as his own may not be sufficient to absolve Paupiah. The police should have been alive to the possibility of a joint enterprise in this case. It is somehow strange that the passport of Paupiah was returned to him in such haste. Paupiah has now gone on radio and publicly claims that he was the owner of the drugs. There were other items found in the suitcase and it would be interesting to know whether any of these belonged to Paupiah’s partner.
Moreover, the conduct of Paupiah raises questions: he deserted the hotel on 29 December when the raid took place, to surface again days later at a police station in Plaine Verte accompanied by a barrister. Besides deeper police inquiries into this particular case and a possible charge of drug trafficking registered against Paupiah, he would have been an important element in the investigation in the case of David Fine.
Crime, strictly speaking, is detected only when a conviction is obtained. In order to obtain a conviction, the evidence obtained during an enquiry must be admissible and of such a nature that the court can rely on the evidence beyond reasonable doubt to be able to act upon.
It is high time that our police force contemplates the recourse to telephone interceptions as another weapon to tackle organized crime. Such technique is being used widely in Europe to prevent criminals from being one step ahead of the law enforcer. Our law already provides for such a possibility under the supervision of the Judge in Chambers of course. What are we waiting for?