By Shemuel Fanfair
In the last few weeks, several women have been either remanded or jailed for drug smuggling.
When grilled by Police investigators after the busts, many of the self-confessed mules have blamed their economic circumstances as being responsible for their choices.
However, Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) Deputy Head Lesley Ramlall has opined that financial difficulty was no excuse for breaking the laws on trafficking narcotics.
Karen Stuffle, Alicia Coppin, Shellon Barrow, Christine Griffith and Ruth Caniff are among the women implicated in drug smuggling in September alone. On the sidelines of this year’s annual CANU staff training, Ramlall indicated that the drug-fighting agency was working on awareness programmes especially to enlighten current and potential traffickers that earnings from the illegal practice could be forfeited.
“We want to start sensitising the general public about the dangers of not only being involved in narcotics, but the losing of assets. We have to make not only women but the general population aware,” he stressed last week.
“As it relates to women, a lot of them are in single-parent families and a lot of them are using that as a reason for being involved in the narco trade. In fact, most of the women we’ve arrested that is the reason given – that ‘I’m a single-parent person, there are challenges for me getting an income, so I just decided to take a chance’. But is this a reason for you to be involved in narco trade? Certainly not,” the CANU Deputy Head added.
During last week’s staff training, inter-agency collaboration was emphasised as being integral to tackling the multibillion-dollar illegal industry. In fact, it is expected that CANU will forge advanced cooperation with the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) to curb money laundering practices linked to the drug trade.
Based on CANU’s targets, operatives attached to SOCU will join in key operations where evidence of laundered money is involved. After CANU seizes narcotics, SOCU and, at times, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) will gather evidence as they intensify anti-money laundering efforts.
CANU officials contend that it has been challenging to garner successful prosecution of the very large narcotics dealers owing to well-established networks.
This publication was, however, told that tax evasion investigations could be a key force in dismantling the narcotics empire which was “growing every day”.
On September 13, 48-year-old Guyanese hairdresser Karen Stuffle was sentenced to four years in prison and fined $2.3 million for attempting to smuggle cocaine at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).
When CANU ranks searched the woman on September 9, they unearthed 100 cocaine pellets totalling 1.42 kilograms which were stashed in her vagina and stomach. She had said that she was paid airfare and some US$400 to traffic the narcotics.
Another woman, Alicia Coppin was subjected to a search by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) upon her arrival at the JFK International Airport in New York. According to reports, Coppin was seen acting suspiciously and when DEA Agents questioned her, she admitted to inserting the illegal drug into her vaginal cavity. In similar fashion to Stuffle, several cocaine pellets were also found in Coppin’s stomach.
Also in September, Shellon Barrow and her friend, Christine Griffith, were remanded to prison following another cocaine bust at the CJIA. The duo were charged for trafficking 1.638 kilograms of cocaine and aiding the trafficking of narcotics respectively.
Both women, however, denied their involvement though Barrow’s suitcase contained the illicit drug. Police outlined that Griffith delivered that said suitcase.
They return to the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts on October 8, 2018.