AMERICAN undercover agents have foiled a plan by the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen to smuggle a cache of assault weapons into Trinidad and Tobago with the arrest of a former member of the sect in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Wednesday.
Keith Andre Glaude, 45, was arrested by agents of the American Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), who set up a sting operation to sell him 60 AK-47s and ten Mac-10 machine guns fitted with silencers.
A leading member of the Jamaat, Olive Enyahooma El, also called Lance Small, was implicated in the bust as the lead contact who set up the buy with ATF Special Agent Steve McKean.
Glaude, who lived at Pelham Street, Belmont, and was a member of the Jamaat before emigrating to the United States in the late 1980s, was yesterday allowed US$150,000 bail with corporate surety (a cash bond) by a Southern Florida District judge.
He is expected to be arraigned (when formal charges are read to him and he is called upon to enter a plea) within ten days.
Glaude was charged with the possession of and transfer of unregistered firearms and silencers and could be jailed for up to ten years for each weapon if found guilty.
In an affidavit, SA McKean said between March and September 2000, he had been contacted by another Jamaat member, who put him on to Small on the pretext that he had guns for sale.
Between April last year and March this year, Small, the affidavit said, agreed to arrange payment and delivery of the guns, saying he was going to send a Mr Mourning to pick up the guns. Mourning (who was later identified as Glaude) contacted McKean on April 17 and 18 to confirm the sale and transfer of the weapons. The deal was finalised several weeks later on May 29.
Then, McKean and Special Agent Vincent Curry met Glaude at a Ft Lauderdale restaurant, where Glaude confirmed he had been chosen and sent by Small to accept delivery of the guns.
He said his job was to pick up the weapons and transfer them to an individual who would export them to Trinidad in a container loaded with furniture.
Glaude guaranteed that the firearms would be exported to Trinidad and Small would easily be able to sell the firearms for a profit, McKean said in the affidavit.
The transfer was arranged for the following day at a controlled site in Ft Lauderdale, but almost didnt come off when Glaude saw SA Currys ankle holster and became suspicious that the two men were US government agents.
He was convinced they were not and told the agents he was only a transporter of the firearms and did not want to get in trouble with the law.
They agreed to meet in the parking lot of the popular Hooters restaurant in Ft Lauderdale the following day. Glaude arrived driving a green Chrysler mini-van and was then taken to a warehouse to pick up the guns.
The meeting was videotaped as Glaude examined 12 blue gym bags containing 60 AK47s and a green duffle bag with the ten Mac-10 machine guns fitted with silencers.
There in the warehouse, Glaude then called Small to confirm he had the weapons and Small then spoke to the SA McKean as well. The weapons were put into Glaudes mini-van and he was then arrested by the undercover agents.
Glaude agreed to co-operate with the agents and said he had been a member of the Jamaat up to the late 1980s. He said he and Small were friends since then and, in 1996, he had borrowed approximately $2,500 from Small.
Glaude said when he came to Trinidad in February this year, Small asked him to contact McKean in South Florida to take the guns and ship them to Trinidad. He said they had no specific agreement as to how much he would be paid, but he assumed that his debt to Small would have been written off and he would receive part of the profit when Small sold the guns.
Miami media reports said the final destination of the guns was Afghanistan for the man the United States has labelled its Most Wanted Man, dreaded terrorist Osama Bin Laden, and that Trinidad was only to be used as a transshipment point for the weapons.
But SA Ed Halley told the Express that, as far as the ATF was concerned, it was destined for Trinidad. He said it was highly probable and not impossible that the guns were to be transshipped to Afghanistan to avoid the tight scrutiny under which any cargo out of Russia or its break-away states are normally subjected to.
Bin Laden and his associates of the Islamic Call Muslim fundamentalist group are accused of two US embassy bombings in Africa. Earlier this week, four of Bin Ladens associates were convicted in New York City for the bombings.
The Express attempted to speak with Small yesterday evening but a visit to his Gonzales home proved futile.
JUNE 3, 2001
By MAURISA FINDLAY
OLIVE Enyahooma El says he is not afraid of any plan by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to extradite him to the United States for his perceived involvement in the arms deal unearthed by undercover agents of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Enyahooma El, who was once known as Lance Small, was on Friday implicated in an illegal arms transaction to ship sophisticated arms and ammunition from Florida to Trinidad and Tobago.
Speaking to the Sunday Express in an exclusive interview at his Gonzales home yesterday, Enyahooma El said he would like the FBI to take him away to the US since he has been longing to visit his relatives domiciled there.
The 65-year old proprietor was relaxing among friends at the incomplete house he is constructing a short distance away from his home. He said he was not afraid for his life. The former insurrectionist said he was being targeted by the FBI as part of an ongoing assault on the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen.
He argued that he was an innocent man and did not play any role in the busted gun shipment. He mocked reports that he had negotiated the deal or that he was acquainted with international Islamic terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Bin Ladens money he opined, so big, a small purse of guns was of no use to him.
But Enyahooma El, casually dressed in track pants, polo T shirt and taj says he is not fearful of any US measures. As a practising Muslim and an active member of the Jamaat, he said he was not surprised by the accusations, trumped up or otherwise. Although he denied any involvement or knowledge of the transaction, Enyahooma El felt his name was also called in the plot because he is a well known friend of the Trinidadian man Keith Andre Glaude, who was arrested for the crime.
Glaude, Enyahooma El said is a good friend.
I know him well, he is my brother...
But their relationship, Enyahooma said, never involved a business transaction of any nature.
When Glaude visited Trinidad recently, Enyahooma El said, they met as old friends and discussed things happening in one anothers life.
He told me about his hustle. I told him about my struggles. That was it. Apart from regular exchanges, Enyahooma El said he asked Glaude during one of their regular interactions to assist, a brother who had telephoned him with a particular need. Although he preferred not to reveal the detail of the brothers need, Enyahooma El said he felt confident Glaude could have assisted.
We Muslims are bounded to help a brother no matter what part of the world he is in...I mention to Glaude while he was here that this brother called on me for assistance and asked him to hook with that brother.
Assuming the needful would have been done, Enyahooma El said he put Glaude out of his mind and went about his business which these days revolves around the completion of his two storey house.
News that he was part of the gun shipment plot, he said, however has left him unfazed.
I didnt even bother to read the newspaper because nothing there is true, Enyahooma El says, adding I know nothing about that matter. I never discussed anything like that with Glaude.
Laughing lightly, Enyahooma El, who described himself as a man with street degree, said he has no reason to believe that his old friend Glaude would have implicated him in the matter.
I have no proof that Glaude called my name so I refuse to believe what is being said.
He was certain the FBI would want to make out a case against him.
They know they will find a way to make their case stick, he said. Let them come with their proof, he calmly said, adding, I dont mind, is years I want to go and visit my family in the States, this might be the trip Ive been longing for.
A picture of El during the coup attempt in TT in 1990: