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.