The Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) remains adamant that none of its ranks were involved in the operation in which a local businessman was detained and jewellery worth $4M confiscated at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) last week.
Businessman Richard Ramjit, a goldsmith of Better Hope, East Coast Demerara, claimed he was detained four hours at the airport and two pieces of his gold and silver jewellery, a necklace and a band valued some $4 million, were seized by CANU.
However, Head of CANU James Singh, in a statement Saturday, categorically denied that any of his officers were involved in the operation.
“CANU would like to state that the officers who identified themselves as CANU officers, are not members of the unit, nor were they ever members of the unit. Furthermore, no CANU Officer was involved in that operation at any time,” the CANU head declared.
Singh went on to outline that while CANU officers on duty are indeed “uniformed”, they however have on display their issued Identification Card from the Unit with their names.
The businessman had claimed that, on Tuesday last, as he was checking-in at the airline counter for his flight to New York, a person in civilian clothes approached him indicating that he is a CANU officer and wanted to search his suitcases. The officer also questioned him, the businessman said.
Ramjit added that after being questioned by two officers in a room, he was allowed to proceed to the Departure Lounge but shortly after, he was detained again and accused of trying to smuggle gold, which he denied. The man said he was then taken on the tarmac where his checked-in suitcase was opened in the presence of the other passengers.
“This officer then demanded that I hand over to him the said neckwear and wrist band; I did so and I have not seen either pieces of jewellery since. This officer also requested that I report the following morning to the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) at Camp Street, Georgetown.”
Following Tuesday’s incident, the businessman filed a $10 million lawsuit against government since the officers would have acted under the new Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Amendment passed by the David Granger-led administration last year.
This incident has brought to the fore concerns about how potential travellers will be affected by this new legislation, which allows designated officers to seize cash and jewellery in excess of US$10,000.
Former Legal Affairs Minister cum Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, who is representing the businessman, said he had pointed this out in Parliament during debate on the amendments but was ignored.
The Notice of Motion filed on Thursday is scheduled to be heard on February 15, 2016.
According to Ramjit in the legal documents, when he was eventually released the flight had already left, causing him a loss of US$750 for his ticket and a further G$400,000 for items he was supposed to buy and resell to make a profit.
In addition to asking the court to grant an order for his jewellery to be returned, the businessman is also asking for “damages in excess of $10,000,000 for breach of his fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of Guyana”.