HomeNewsBriefTrinidad and Tobago Gangs Extorting Public Works Projects
BRIEF

Trinidad and Tobago Gangs Extorting Public Works Projects

CARIBBEAN / 15 MAR 2017 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Authorities in Trinidad and Tobago say gangs are behind the rampant extortion of contractors carrying out public works projects, highlighting the many ways criminal groups can exploit this source of state funding for their own purposes. 

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said criminal groups are demanding that construction and road maintenance contractors pay a "coward tax," reported the Trinidad Guardian

"There are some rogue elements who are threatening the contractors," said Sinanan. "And it is happening all over Trinidad. It has been happening for a while now." 

A source close to Trinidad and Tobago Contractors' Association told the Trinidad Guardian that the gangs supply the contractors with lists of people who they want to work on the projects. The gang leaders reportedly charge $3,000 for each name on the list. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Extortion 

"Most times the names on the list are people who are associated with a gang," the source said. "These gang members would just come on the job and do nothing. Others would not come at all and collect a salary at the end of the week. They operate as a ghost gang."

The source said the contractors must also pay the gangs to ensure their equipment isn't damaged once the project is finished, "so it's extortion all around."

One contractor who was either unable or unwilling to pay the extortion fee was reportedly forced to abandon a project last month after receiving death threats.

InSight Crime Analysis

This case illustrates a few of the numerous ways criminal groups and corrupt officials can insert themselves into the process of awarding and carrying out public works projects. Even in Trinidad in Tobago, which is not known to have a strong organized crime presence, disputes between gangs vying for community development projects have led to flare-ups of violence in the past.

In other parts of Latin America, especially Central America's Northern Triangle region (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador), public works contracts underpin much of the corruption involving political elites. 

In El Salvador, state contracts appear to have been a central element of secret negotations between gang leaders and government officials. A video released last year shows El Salvador's current Interior Minister Aristides Valencia offering the leaders of the Barrio 18 and MS13 up to $10 million in microcredit for businesses run by the gangs and their families. While it's not clear what the authorities asked for in return, Valencia had previously been recorded discussing an electoral pact with the gang leaders in the run-up to the 2014 presidential election. 

Meanwhile in Honduras, a leader of the Cachiros drug clan recently testified in a US court that former President Porfirio Lobo awarded his group government contracts in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

But nowhere have public works contracts been so closely intertwined with corruption than in Guatemala. Officials routinely used no-bid contracts to buy and sell political favors, in the process helping to create a mafia state that was only recently dismantled.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COCAINE / 6 SEP 2021

Honduran businessman Wilkin Montalván's name came up in November 2018 when US agents questioned Tony Hernández, the president's brother, about…

COLOMBIA / 15 JUL 2021

A convicted cocaine trafficker is among the suspects that authorities in Haiti are pursuing in connection to the middle-of-the-night murder…

CARIBBEAN / 22 OCT 2021

Kidnappings have skyrocketed in Haiti, but the crisis has political as well as criminal roots.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…