Guyana’s drug lords still operate with impunity
– US report
Bribes and coercion see Guyana’s dons continuing to operate with impunity despite some strides made by local law agencies in investigating drug crimes, the 2010 US State Department Inter-national Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) has found.
Guyana continues to be a major transshipment point for cocaine destined for North America, Europe and West Africa and “the GOG [Government of Guyana] has neither identified nor confronted major drug traffickers and their organisations,” the INCSR, which was released yesterday, said.
This criticism has been expressed in several of the reports in recent years and with the convictions of several drug barons from Guyana–including Roger Khan, former army major David Clarke, Peter Morgan and David Narine–more questions have been raised as to why there have been no arrests or convictions of the major players in Guyana.
The report said the country’s vast expanse of unpopulated forest and savannahs offer ample cover for drug traffickers and smugglers.
“Government counternarcotics efforts remain hindered by inadequate resources for, and poor coordination among, law enforcement agencies, an overburdened and inefficient judiciary; and the lack of a coherent and prioritised national security strategy,” the report said.
“Murders, kidnappings, and other violent crimes commonly believed to be linked with narcotics trafficking are regularly reported in the Guyanese media,” it added.
To compound matters the report stated that the country’s counternarcotics activities have long been hampered by a British colonial-era legal system that does not reflect the needs of modern-day law enforcement.
Insufficient personnel budgets have hampered the efforts of the law enforcement agencies resulting in no routine patrols of the numerous land entry points on the 1,800 miles border with Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname.
It is hoped that implementation of the wiretapping and plea bargaining legislation will enhance both the investigative capability of law enforcement authorities, as well as the tools available to prosecutors in drug-related and other criminal matters.
The report said that the recent installation of surveillance cameras at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport have positively impacted drug interdiction efforts there, “but the Guyana Police Force (GPF) Narcotics Branch and CANU [Customs Anti Narcotics Unit] have been limited to arresting low-level drug couriers at the airport, who carry only small amounts of marijuana, crack cocaine or powder.”
Further, the report said, the US and Canadian authorities have made recent seizures known to originate from Guyana and such seizures “routinely dwarf efforts by Guyanese law enforcement.”
While the report found that as a policy the government does not “encourage or facilitate” the illicit production or distribution of narcotic drugs or laundering of proceeds from illegal drugs transactions, it is believed drug trafficking organisations in Guyana “continue to elude law enforcement agencies through bribes and coercion.”
The report did mention routine media reports on alleged corruption reaching “high levels of government that are not investigated and thus go unpunished.”
Even though the country is party to the Inter-American Convention Against Corrup-tion (IACAC), the report said, Guyana is yet to fully implement its provisions, such as seizure of property obtained through corruption.
The report also made mention of the recent court saga involving Barry Dataram—though he was not named–who is wanted in the US for drug trafficking and has been in and out of police custody. It said that recent rulings in extradition hearings have hampered the 1931 Extra-dition Treaty which is applicable to Guyana adding that while the burning issue has been addressed in the recent amendment of the Fugitive Offenders Act (at the time of the writing of the report) it was still before President Bharrat Jagdeo for approval. (The Fugitive Offenders Bill has since been assented to.)
“In the meantime, there has been an exchange of diplomatic notes on the topic aimed at addressing the court’s concern,” the report said. A local court ruling had found that the treaty was invalid essentially because it lacked a re-extradition clause, which was an issue addressed in the amendment.
Meanwhile, the report revealed that Guyana recently acceded to, and has filed information requests under the Inter-American Conven-tion on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, to which both Guyana and the US are parties.
According to the report, while there are no reliable estimates regarding the amount of cocaine or cannabis that transits Guyana, US law enforcement authorities have found that Guyanese narcotics traffickers regularly move shipments of cocaine through the country.
“Guyana’s uncontrolled borders and coastline allow unfettered drug transit,” the report said, adding that light aircraft land at numerous isolated airstrips or make airdrops where operatives on the ground retrieve the drugs.
“Smugglers use small boats and freighters to enter Guyana’s many remote but navigable rivers. Smugglers also take direct routes, such as driving or boating across the borders with Brazil, Suriname, and Venezuela,” the report said.
Guyana was knocked for achieving few of the original goals spelled out in its ambitious 2005-2009 National Drug Strategy Master Plan.
“Elaborate plans were spelled out in the 2005 document envisioned a comprehensive, country-wide counternarcotics programme yet little action was taken towards these ends,” the report said.
However, it pointed out that government’s overhaul of CANU, which saw many officers being sent home and new ones being hired, appeared to be paying dividends in 2009 “through greater intelligence sharing and more drug seizures.”
It said that CANU head James Singh, who was named, is delivering “on promises of regularisation of its operations, improved efficiency, and enhanced collaboration among law enforcement bodies.” However, the country remains absent from key regional counternarcotics meetings.
Singh and Crime Chief Seelall Persaud did attend the regional drug conference recently held in Jamaica.
Mention was made of the cancellation of the Security Sector Reform Project by the United Kingdom government.
According to the report, the Guyana government made little progress on the plan’s key provisions after two years of talks as “key sticking points were lack of agreement on government transparency and measuring success.
The Guyana Government had said that the UK government cancelled the programme because of a denial of a UK request for a live firing exercise in the west of Guyana. “This decision by the UK Government is believed to be linked to the administration’s refusal to permit training of British Special Forces in Guyana using live firing in a hinterland community on the western border with Brazil and Venezuela,” the government had said last October.
Last year saw law enforcement agencies seizing over 137 kilogrammes of cocaine compared to 48 kilogrammes in 2008 and 167 in 2007. The report said that 183 kilogrammes of marijuana and two kilogrammes of heroin were seized last year.
Some 648 criminal charges were filed for activities related to the trafficking or distribution of illicit drugs compared to 473 in 2008, “however, Guyanese drug interdiction efforts remain inadequate,” the report concluded.
Meanwhile, there was no country report on Guyana in the money laundering section of the US report, as countries listed under the ‘Jurisdiction of Primary Concern’ were the only ones specifically reported on.
Guyana was listed under ‘Jurisdiction of Concern’ and the report said while the actual money laundering problem in these jurisdictions is not as acute as the ones for primary concern, they too must “undertake efforts to develop or enhance their anti-money laundering regimes.”
While Guyana was among a number of countries that have taken action to combat money laundering, there are quite a few steps that the country failed to take in this regard.
According to the report, there is no requirement by law in Guyana for banks to maintain records of large transactions in currency or other monetary instruments. Nor is there any established central, national agency responsible for receiving, analyzing, and disseminating to the competent authorities disclosures of financial information concerning suspected proceeds of crime, or required by national legislation or regulation, in order to counter money laundering.
Further, there is no law that permits sharing of seized assets with third party jurisdictions that assisted in the conduct of underlying investigation and none that require or permit banks to cooperate with authorized investigations involving or initiated by third party jurisdictions, including sharing of records or other financial data.