Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday admitted that the cellphone belonging to his 25-year-old son Adrian Imbert, which was stolen in a robbery last Friday, had sensitive personal information on it.
Imbert also denied he used his ministerial influence to get the police to investigate the robbery, saying his son was a crime victim who was being scandalised, demonised and vilified, while others are saying he should have been shot on social media and in other quarters.
Yesterday, Imbert broke his silence about the robbery and the swift recovery of Adrian’s stolen cellphone by officers, which led to a furore on social media.
Responding to questions posed by blogger and author Rhoda Bharath, which she subsequently posted on her Facebook page, Imbert explained that on the day in question, Adrian was driving a truck transporting water from the East to an event in the West when the vehicle broke down several times along the way as a result of a choked fuel line. He said it appeared that bandits had noticed the truck shutting down on the highway and followed his son as he later drove onto the Eastern Main Road in Laventille where the truck again shut down.
It was while waiting on the wrecker Imbert said “two men approached the truck and demanded money with menace. He gave them whatever cash he had and they also took his cellphone.”
He said Adrian’s wallet, which contained his ID card, was not stolen. “So the bandits did not know who he was,” Imbert added, saying he was thankful his son was unharmed.
After reporting the robbery to the police, Imbert said a statement was taken from his son.
Asked if he used his influence as Finance Minister to get the police to investigate the robbery, Imbert wrote, “Absolutely not. He (Adrian) called 999 and the police subsequently called me simply to get the location of the truck. We had no contact with the police since that Friday afternoon.”
Imbert said he learnt on Tuesday that the police were fortunate to get CCTV footage to identify the getaway car and the bandits involved, who he stated were known to the police. Pressed on if he insisted on the involvement of the
Strategic Services Agency or any elite police unit investigating the robbery, Imbert said from his understanding standard procedures were used.
“Nothing exceptional. As far as I know, there is no elite unit in the police and there was no manhunt, lockdown or any special attention. The Port-of-Spain CID, who just did their work in the normal manner and got a lucky break from the CCTV camera footage, are also being unjustifiably condemned when, in fact, they should be commended.”
Imbert said in the police’s search for the bandits they found Adrian’s phone, which he owned for almost seven years. He also revealed that the phone had sensitive personal information pertaining to him and his son.
“There is very sensitive information on it. Both of us. Naturally, as my son, we would communicate frequently.”
Imbert said there was a lie circulating that TSTT had shut down its entire network on Monday to facilitate the recovery of the stolen phone, but added that if this was done the phone could not have been detected.“I am flabbergasted at the ease at which the multiple fake news stories about this matter are being promoted and escalated and are morphing into madness. I also find it incredible that these fake news stories have incited public sentiments to the extent that the victim of a crime who asked for no special treatment and got none is being scandalised and vilified. It’s ridiculous.”
He said the accusation that his son used “his position to get preferential treatment” was simply not true.
Some of the fake news stories escalated to the point, Imbert said, where some callers actually said his son should have been shot.
“It’s disgraceful that fake news could create a fake scandal in this terrible way. I am amazed and saddened how the victim of a crime is being demonised based on multiple fake news stories.”
COPS: NO SPECIAL TREATMENT
Meanwhile, the T&T Police Service (TTPS) is also continuing to defend its investigation into the robbery during yesterday’s weekly police press briefing at the Police Administration Building in Port-of-Spain.
Addressing concerns raised that Imbert had received special treatment, public information officer ASP Michael Jackman denied this.
Jackman said: “I don’t see anything unique in the issue you brought up. I can’t say whether police worked especially hard in this instance or in other instances.
“What I can say is police officers treat all matters that come under their purview and are reported to them with the greatest amount of seriousness.”
Asked if citizens could expect the same treatment if they reported cases of stolen cellphones, Jackman said it depended on the circumstances.
“Once a report is made to a police officer, as is standard procedure and it involves cell phones and other electronic devices, the investigator would make a request, if necessary, to the various sections and agencies within the TTPS to assist in locating such devices. Exercises would be conducted to secure those devices once a location has been given,” Jackman said.
Last Friday, Adrian Imbert, 25, was driving along the Eastern Main Road in Laventille when his truck stalled. Two men pretending to be mechanics offered to assist, but instead robbed him of his cellphone and an undisclosed amount of cash. The phone was eventually recovered on Monday as police officers executed a search warrant at a house in Beetham Gardens. No one was arrested.
Media reports claimed that two elite units of the TTPS, including the Cyber Crime Unit, were enlisted to assist in tracking the location of the phone.
Several persons took to social media to criticise the TTPS for allegedly showing favouritism in the case because the victim was a minister’s son. (With reporting by Derek Achong)