Ace rider Steven Vieira, whom the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) had wanted for questioning in connection with the $550 million cocaine bust at Zeelugt, East Bank Essequibo, has been released on his own recognisance.
Vieira appeared before the Chief Magistrate on Monday, represented by Attorney-at-law Latchmie Rahamat, who successfully applied for the CANU arrest warrant, issued on May 16th following the discovery of the cocaine, to be discharged.
Vieria’s attorney was quoted in other sections of the media explaining that her client had, on Thursday evening, been arrested by the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit; but the 72-hour detention period has elapsed, hence her client has been released without any charges being laid against him.
Moreover, she noted that the CANU investigations are continuing, and her client intends to co-operate because he intends to clear his name and establish his innocence of any implication in drug-trafficking.
The attorney contends that while her client’s name indeed appears on documents that relate to the shipping of the lumber, none of the lumber was found in his possession.
Vieira had been arrested on Thursday evening moments after disembarking a Fly Jamaica flight at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. He was reportedly in Jamaica for the Caribbean Motor Racing Championship, but when the ongoing narcotics investigation became known, the Guyana Motor Racing and Sports Club suspended his racing licence, making him ineligible to participate in the action.
However, following his arrest, he gave a detailed statement to the investigating officers through his attorney.
Two Fridays ago, members of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit swooped down on a lumber yard at Lot 227 Zeelugt, East Bank Essequibo, where they conducted a search on a truck that was laden with several pallets of 1×6 dressed lumber that was being prepared for export to the United States.
During the search, several boards were reportedly drilled randomly, and a whitish substance suspected to be cocaine was detected. The truck was escorted to CANU Headquarters, where the lumber was further examined, and it was discovered that each of the compromised boards had a dugout cavity with vacuum sealed plastic packets containing cocaine pasted therein.
A total of 84.986 kilograms of cocaine, with a street value of $550 million, was unearthed. At the time, four workers at the lumber yard were taken into police custody, but were released on Monday last after it was established that they were only contracted to transport the lumber.
Meanwhile, further investigations by the CANU ranks have led to the arrest of popular race car driver Nazim Gafoor and Haleem Mohamed. Gafoor’s father, as well as Stephen Vieira, was listed by CANU as a person of interest.
Vieira has been listed on the shipping documents as the representative of Naraine Lall, who is the shipper of the consignment of lumber. With the help of the law enforcement officers, Tazim Gafoor was arrested and handed over to CANU.
The Gafoors and Mohamed were subsequently released, but are expected to report to the CANU Headquarters on a daily basis. Narine Lall, the owner of the sawmill, is still out of the jurisdiction.