T&T beverage manufacturer concerned over use of its products to smuggle drugs into US

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Trinidad beverage manufacturer SM Jaleel, Friday said it had not been contacted by US law enforcement officials regarding reports that cocaine had been found in some of its products.

“At present we have no knowledge or evidence of the details other than the press release from the United States. We have already commenced our own internal investigation; however, we are not yet in a position to provide any further details at this time,” the company said.

It said that it had been “recently informed” that on December 20 last year, two of its products “JTC orange and grapefruit flavoured juice” had been used to smuggle cocaine into the United States.

But the company said that to date it has “not been contacted by the relevant US authorities in connection with this matter”.

On Thursday, Federal officials announced that they had found 732 pounds of cocaine on December 20 concealed in cans of fruit juice.

 Investigators estimate the cocaine had a wholesale value of about US$12 million and a street value of up to US$100 million.

Customs and Border Protection Area Port Director Mark J. Laria called the seizure a record for a single interdiction in the port of Hampton Roads.

“This was a cold hit. There was no specific intelligence,” Laria said.

The cocaine was found inside a shipping container that originated from Trinidad and Tobago.It was destined for New York.

SM Jaleel said “it is common knowledge that the criminals involved in the drug trade have been using mechanisms such as fruit, car parts, lumber, hardware to transport cocaine.

“It now appears that someone may be trying to utilize our company’s product in this regard,” the 90-year-old company said, adding that the family owned and operated business has “consistently maintained our family values throughout the development of the business to include, in more recent times, the global expansion of our operations through the exportation of our trusted products to various countries and communities around the world.