Guyana seeking int’l help in multi-million dollar drug bust case


(CMC) The Guyana Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) says it is seeking international assistance as investigations continue into the recent G$550 million drug bust in East Bank Essequibo.

The police report that on May 14, CANU agents conducted a raid at a premises in the 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.

The cocaine being unearthed (Stabroek News photo)

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 motorbiker 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 late last week and was arrested on arrival at the Cheddi Jagan Airport. When he appeared in court on Tuesday, he was released from custody, but according to CANU, he remains 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 is now seeking international assistance in retrieving the data that may have been therein,” the agency said in a release on Tuesday.

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

“It would be expedient to charge persons only after we have enough evidence to link the parties and the contraband all with a view to ensuring a successful prosecution rather than to rush and come up short in the courts,” the agency said.


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