Home Affairs Minister awaits return of PS over US seizure of cellphone

Last Updated on Friday, 21 April 2023, 18:31 by Denis Chabrol

Ms. Mae Toussaint Jr.-Thomas

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn on Friday said it was too early to draw any conclusions about the reason behind the United States seizing Permanent Secretary Mae Toussaint Jr.-Thomas’ mobile phone while she was  passing through the United States (US).

Asked whether he had been given a reason, he said, “no reason, we are waiting for her return” in a couple of days.

On whether the seizure of the phone raised any concerns, Mr Benn said when Ms Toussaint Jr.- Thomas returns, “we will have a review of whatever happened and we’ll speak with the responsible authorities then.”

The privately-owned Stabroek News newspaper reported that the top civilian internal security official’s phone was confiscated by American authorities as she was transiting New York to China.

Potentially, Ms Toussaint Jr.-Thomas’ phone could contain sensitive security sector information as the Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for the police force, prisons service and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit.  A staunch supporter of the incumbent People’s Progressive Party, Ms Toussaint Jr.-Thomas was appointed shortly after her party won the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections.

Under United States law, security agencies could gain access to persons’ electronic devices if there is reasonable suspicion even if they refuse to cooperate.