$550M cocaine bust: GRA agent, others refused bail, remanded to prison

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After months of investigations by the Criminal Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), the five men held in connection with the discovery of 84.9 kilogrammes of cocaine (GYD 550 million dollars worth) were today arraigned at the Leonora Magistrates’ Court.

Race car drivers, Stephen Vieria, and Nazim Gaffoor along with his father, Tazim Gaffoor and a drug enforcement agent attached to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Sherwayne De Abreu, all plead not guilty to the charge which alleged that between March 1, 2017 and May 12, 2017, they aided Hakeem Mohamed in trafficking in 84.9 kilogrammes of cocaine at Narine Lall Sawmill, Lookout, Parika.

However, wanted man Naraine Lall, who is reportedly out of the jurisdiction, was charged in absentia with the allegation.

Attorneys for the accused are Everton Singh-Lammy, Glenn Hanoman, Latchmie Rahamat, Stanley Moore and Mark Conway.

Rahamat who represented Vieira pleaded for bail to be granted to the accused on the grounds that he was never found in possession of any narcotics. She told the court that the documents signed was for a shipment of wood that was checked and cleared. As such, there is no indication that Vieria had anything to do with Mohamed’s shipment.

Nevertheless, bail was still refused for all the accused and they were remanded. They are expected to return to court on June 12, 2017.

The police reported that on May 14, CANU agents conducted a raid at a property in the Parika area and searched a truck laden with several pallets of 1×6 dressed lumber prepared for export to the United States. According to CANU, several boards were drilled randomly and revealed a white substance suspected to be cocaine.

Some 187 pounds of cocaine, carrying a street value of GYD $550M, was found concealed in lumber being prepared for shipment to the USA

Following the discovery, the truck, its driver and porters were escorted to CANU headquarters where a detailed search of the cargo was completed. The search revealed cocaine in random boards scattered among genuine boards in each pallet. The compromised boards all had a dug out cavity with vacuum sealed plastic packets containing the drug.

CANU said its investigation revealed that the truck was hired to pick up and transport the lumber from a saw-mill and then transport it to a wharf in Georgetown. Three men – Hakeem Mohamed, Tazim Gafoor and Nazim Gafoor — were held after the discovery but they were subsequently released when the 72-hour maximum period for detention without charge expired.

The investigators did not apply for an extension since they did not gather any new information. The police later held motor biker, Stephen Vieira whose name was found on several shipping documents. Vieira who was in the country at the time of the bust, had travelled to Jamaica via Suriname and Trinidad, one day after the bust was made.

He returned to Guyana shortly after and was arrested on arrival at the Cheddi Jagan Airport.

When he appeared in court on Tuesday last, he was released from custody, but according to CANU, he remained under investigation.

Following Vieria’s release CANU said a digital video recording device was retrieved from Nazim Gafoor but the information was erased.

As such, CANU had indicated that they are seeking international assistance in retrieving the data that may have been on the device.

CANU also confirmed that Vieria’s girlfriend, who was arrested and questioned, was also released from custody.

However, the owner of the saw-mill, Narine Lall, has not yet been apprehended.

Meanwhile, CANU has appealed for patience as investigators work to ensure the anti-drug agency does not lose the expected court case.

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