Superintendent of Police (AG) Wendell Lucas v David Neeranjan

JurisdictionTrinidad & Tobago
JudgeMendonça,Mohammed & Wilson, JJA
Judgment Date31 January 2023
Neutral CitationTT 2023 CA 3
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No. P.231 of 2020 Claim No. UWO 002-2019
CourtCourt of Appeal (Trinidad and Tobago)

In the Matter of the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Act No. 8 of 2019


In the Matter of David Neeranjan

Kendra Neeranjan

Persons investigated with a specified offence (as defined in the Proceeds of Crime Act Chapter 11:27) under the Second Schedule

Superintendent of Police (AG) Wendell Lucas
David Neeranjan
Kendra Neeranjan

In the Matter of an Ex Parte Application by Richard Taylor

Assistant Superintendent of Police (AG)

For a Preliminary Unexplained Wealth Order Pursuant to Section 58 (1) of the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Act No. 8 of 2019

Richard Taylor Assistant Superintendent of Police (AG)
Natalie Natasha Spring
Catherine Issabella Spring
Estate of Sheldon Spring

A. Mendonça, J.A.

M. Mohammed, J.A.

M. Wilson, J.A.

Civil Appeal No. P.231 of 2020 Claim No. UWO 002-2019

Civil Appeal No P.232 of 2020 Claim No. UWO 001-2019



Mr. Fyard Hosein S.C., Mr. Gilbert Peterson, S.C., Mr. Ravi Rajcoomar and Ms. Amirah Rahaman instructed by Mr. Netram Kowlessar, Ms. Kristal Madhosingh and Ms. Tiffany Ali for the Appellants.

Mr. Jagdeo Singh and Mr. Kiel Taklalsingh instructed by Ms. Karina Singh for the Neeranjan Respondents.

Mr. Gary Hannays and Mr. Navindra Ramnanan appeared on behalf of the Spring Respondents.

Delivered by: Mendonça, Mohammed & Wilson, JJA


These appeals involve the interpretation and scope of some provisions of the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Act No. 8 of 2019 (the UW Act).


Trinidad and Tobago is not situated alone in attempting to combat prolific criminality and its wide ranging repercussions affiliated with drug-trafficking, serious organised crime and money laundering. Some of these problems have been exacerbated because of the close geographical proximity of Trinidad and Tobago to the coast of South America, with a separating distance of only seven miles from the coast of Venezuela at its closest point. Trinidad and Tobago has become a well-known transhipment point in international drug smuggling routes.


Criminal activities can be lucrative and persons engaged in such activities are predominantly motivated by the desire to acquire and consolidate wealth and power. To deter such criminality, there are strategies adopted the world over which are geared toward ensuring that criminals are not only convicted but are also dispossessed of assets acquired through their criminal activities. These mechanisms, legislative and institutional, are aimed at removing the profit from the crime by creating the offence of money laundering, establishing predicate offences to money laundering, providing for the confiscation and forfeiture of the proceeds of crime and preventing unjust enrichment from such proceeds.


In Trinidad and Tobago, the UW Act is one such mechanism. The UW Act creates a civil asset forfeiture regime which is geared toward preventing unjust enrichment. The foundational jurisprudential framework of the UW Act is that it allows the investigator to take account of the monetary value of illegally obtained assets, wherever they may have gone and in whoever's possession they end up, regardless of whether that person has committed the specified offence. When examined as a whole, the UW Act implicitly recognises the reality that the essence of money laundering is that the benefit is likely to be far removed from the commission of the offence and sometimes from the person who committed the offence.


In this case, the appellants, Acting Superintendent Wendell Lucas (Ag. Supt. Lucas) and Assistant Superintendent Richard Taylor (Ag. Asst. Supt. Taylor), pursuant to section 58 of the UW Act applied ex parte to the court for Preliminary Unexplained Wealth Orders (PUWOs) against Natalie Spring, Catherine Spring and the Estate of Sheldon Spring and against David and Kendra Neeranjan respectively.


On December 10, 2019, the court granted the application against Natalie Spring and the Estate of Sheldon Spring (the Spring Respondents), pursuant to section 61 of the UW Act. On December 9, 2019, the court granted the application against David and Kendra Neeranjan (the Neeranjan Respondents), pursuant to section 61 of the UW Act.


The Spring and Neeranjan Respondents subsequently applied to the court to set aside the PUWOs which it made against them. On August 21, 2020, the court, pursuant to section 63 of the UW Act, granted the applications and revoked the orders.


The judge delivered separate judgments in the application of the Spring Respondents and in the application of the Neeranjan Respondents. The appeals of the Appellants were however consolidated. In this consolidated appeal, the Appellants are seeking to overturn the revocation orders made by the court below. If successful, they ask that this Court reinstate the PUWOs and remit the matters to the High Court for further hearing. The Appellants are also seeking clarification from this Court on certain issues surrounding applications for PUWOs.

The Spring Respondents

Natalie Spring and Sheldon Spring were married. Sheldon Spring was murdered on January 12, 2018. On January 20, 2020, the court appointed Natalie Spring as Administrator Ad Litem of the Estate of Sheldon Spring. Catherine Spring is the mother of Sheldon Spring.


On December 5, 2019, Ag. Asst. Supt. Taylor, by ex parte application, applied for a PUWO in respect of properties identified during the course of an investigation into specified offences. In his affidavit which accompanied the application, Ag. Asst. Supt. Taylor deposed that he had reasonable suspicion that the total wealth of the Spring Respondents exceeds the value of their lawfully obtained wealth. He further stated that having seen the certified copies of the Deeds of Conveyance in the names of the Spring Respondents, it was clear that the value of the properties exceeds the value of their lawfully obtained wealth and that they are either owned or under the effective control of the Spring Respondents. Ag. Asst. Supt. Taylor in his affidavit confirmed the contents of the affidavit of Police Sgt. Marcelle which was filed on December 5, 2019.


In his affidavit, Sgt. Marcelle deposed that the total wealth of the Spring Respondents is TT$12,859,617.50 which comprises, inter alia, the following:

  • (i) Seized cash in the sum of TT$95,329.00;

  • (ii) 15 acres of land at Mamoral valued at TT$596,297.50;

  • (iii) Land at Cunupia valued at TT$955,000.00;

  • (iv) Property located at Lamont Street, Enterprise valued at TT$1,430,000.00;

  • (v) A two storey dwelling house located at Samaroo Trace, off Welcome Road, Cunupia with an Olympic sized swimming pool valued at TT$3,193,000.00;

  • (vi) A steel structure in Cunupia valued at TT$780,000.00; and

  • (vii) Property located in Amaroosingh Street, Longdenville, Chaguanas valued at TT$5,810,000.00, in the name of Catherine Spring.


Sgt. Marcelle stated in his affidavit that in October 2015, the police executed a search warrant at Natalie's home at 51 Lamont Street in Enterprise, in the presence of both her and Sheldon. During a search of the premises, 182 grams of marijuana, 210 grams of cocaine and the sum of TT$95,320.00 were discovered. On October 26, 2015, both Natalie and Sheldon were charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of marijuana.


Sgt. Marcelle conducted investigations which revealed the following:

  • (i) As at December 31, 2015 Sheldon shared a joint account with Natalie which had a balance of TT$7,008.23;

  • (ii) Natalie had accounts with three financial institutions during the period 2010 to 2015 where the sums of TT$4,179,713.00 and US$22,798.41 were credited to the accounts while the sums of TT$3,116,437.00 and US$16,799.46 were withdrawn;

  • (iii) Natalie's “Know Your Customer” source of income declaration at the Unit Trust Corporation declared her primary source of income as Neicey's Niceness Mini Mart. Her secondary source of income was derived from apartment rentals;

  • (iv) Neither Natalie nor Sheldon had filed income taxes for the relevant period 2000 to 2015, nor had they filed health surcharge and PAYE returns for the period 2010 to 2019. No information exists in the BIR database for Neicey's Niceness Mini Mart. No records exist in the NIB database for Sheldon. Natalie had a NIS number but over the period 2009–2015, no contributions were made by her or on her behalf;

  • (v) Though Natalie is the registered owner of Neicey's Niceness Mini Mart which was registered on November 9, 2010 at Lamont Street Extension in Longdenville, there is no evidence to show that it was operational during the period 2010–2015. Natalie also stated in an interview with the police in October 2015 that her business had been closed for the past 7 years, which meant that it was closed during the period 2010–2015 and from the year 2008;

  • (vi) No activity relating to the alleged business was conducted at the address of Neicey's Niceness Mini Mart during 2010–2015 but several narcotics charges emanated from that address;

  • (vii) Several key suppliers and distributors confirmed that neither Natalie nor Neicey's Niceness Mini Mart was their customer;

  • (viii) Natalie indicated that she was a housewife maintained by Sheldon but there was no evidence to suggest that Sheldon was engaged in any legitimate form of employment;

  • (ix) During the period 2010–2015, millions of dollars was placed into accounts controlled by Natalie with Neicey's Niceness Mini Mart declared to be the source of income;

  • (x) An account was opened for Neicey's Niceness Mini Mart at First Citizens Bank from which cheques were drawn to purchase properties and items related to the subject properties; and

  • (xi) On January 7, 2015,...

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