Five months after a city businessman released a tape recording where Senior Superintendent of Police Steve Merai was heard demanding money from him over a drug deal, acting Police Commissioner Henry Greene on Thursday announced that an investigation by the force had been conducted and that the file had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chambers for advice.
Merai was a no-show at the police annual Christmas policing presentation at Eve Leary on Thursday, a function attended by most of the senior officers. He had been keeping a low profile since the tape was released and Greene had taken him off duties at Brickdam where he was in charge of city patrols. Greene did not elaborate on the findings of the police investigations although in July he had said that they were finding it difficult to conclude their probe due to the absence of the businessman with whom Merai had the taped conversation.
Stabroek News (SN) was told that the businessman had fled to neighbouring Suriname. It is not clear whether he has since returned but this newspaper has not been able to contact him. The police said that they had made several attempts to contact the businessman, who operates a motorcycle store in Georgetown, after learning that he had fled the country.
The recording was circulated to several media outlets in June and Merai was heard demanding money from the businessman. He later admitted to this newspaper that it was indeed his voice on the tape but that the recording was a collection of several conversations. Police, in a statement, had acknowledged receiving a copy of the tape as well as a transcript of the taped conversation and a letter.
The police said the letter had levelled certain allegations against Merai and an investigation had been launched.
When this newspaper asked Merai to explain his statements on the tape, he said he had been trying to induce the businessman to divulge further details about the drug deal he was involved in so that he could build a case against him. Merai had also said the tape had been made by a group of drug dealers who had been angered by his tough stance against drug trafficking. He also said the men had recently met and planned to kill him.
Although Merai was relieved of duties as the coordinator of the Impact Patrol following the allegations, he remained in charge of ministerial security patrols. In response to a query about why Merai was allowed to retain this post, Greene replied that being at the Impact Base meant Merai had to interface with the public and this was not good in light of the allegations.
He said the officer had also been removed a few weeks before the tape surfaced since he had been charged with making a wrongful arrest.
That matter is before the court. Greene said being coordinator of ministerial patrols, Merai would send out patrols to make checks at the residences of ministers and they would report to him.
SN confirmed that the businessman in the recording had been deported from the US in 1999 after serving time for possession of marijuana, impersonation, possession of firearms and trafficking in cocaine. He had been incarcerated in the Georgia Correctional Centre in the US.
According to court documents seen by this newspaper he had been found with marijuana in June 1993 and had been sentenced to one year imprisonment. In 1990 he was handed a 12-month prison sentence for impersonating another man and five years for possession of firearms. Also in 1990 the businessman was charged with trafficking in no less than 200 grammes of cocaine.
Sources close to the businessman had also told this newspaper that ever since he had been deported from the US in 1999 after serving time for the crime, he had been engaged in business with another relative. SN was told that in addition to the police several other persons were looking for the businessman. He currently has a matter in the high court.
According to the recordings, the businessman had collected a delivery of cocaine from another man who resides on the West Demerara, which had been shipped by a Guyanese living in Venezuela. After collecting the narcotics the businessman had allegedly refused to pay for it and the Venezuelan man and his West Demerara accomplice had reportedly contacted Merai asking him to ensure that the businessman paid up.
Merai was heard on the tape demanding US$60,000 from the businessman to settle the case. Merai had told this newspaper that when he heard about the drug deal he approached the West Demerara man who admitted that the Georgetown businessman owed him US$710,000 for a shipment of cocaine, but was hiding and not paying up.
Merai said he doubted the West Demerara man at first, as he knew the Georgetown businessman to be law-abiding; however, he said when he approached the businessman with the allegations, after denying involvement the man then offered him US$50,000 as a first payment, following which he [Merai] asked him why not US$60,000.