There is evidence from the numerous cocaine busts here since the start of the year that drug traffickers have found an alternative route for transporting narcotics from Guyana to markets outside and have also found innovative ways of concealing it.
It is good intelligence that led to the interception of two shipments within the last week both linked to Guyana and destined for Africa.
Speaking to Stabroek News on the issue recently Customs and Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) head James Singh said that wherever there is a market the drugs will go and noted that he is more concerned about authorities in Guyana finding the drugs here and arresting and charging persons.
He said that drug traffickers would always attempt to find different routes in an effort to evade authorities.
The Malaysian news agency Bernama on November 19 reported that a container from Guyana was intercepted with cocaine in coconut milk and that a Nigerian drug syndicate was believed to be behind it.
Bernama reported that Bukit Aman Narcotics CID director Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim said the operation was foiled by the Selangor Customs Department after detaining the ship carrying a container cargo in which a section contained drugs worth RM22 million.
Following investigations locally Vijay Bisraj, 25, of Lot 57 Section ‘B‘ Non Pareil, East Coast Demerara and Looknaught Denasur were arrested and charged.
Denasur, the manager of a packaging plant pleaded guilty and said that he was paid an initial $100,000 with a promise of $1M if the drugs reached their destination. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment.
Bisraj, a seaman, denied that he sealed a number of tins labelled coconut milk.
It was alleged that prior to his present profession he was an expert in the sealing of metal tin caps at a factory at Coldingen, ECD.
Singh speaking on this bust said that the drugs’ final destination was Mozambique. According to him, Mozambique and most of the other African countries do not have the market for drugs because persons cannot generally afford them.
He said however that South Africa might be the only exception and expressed the belief that Mozambique was just a stopping point for the narcotics. The final destination, he said may have been Europe or somewhere in the Middle East.
Singh opted not to speak about the most recent bust which occurred last Thursday, since according to him other agencies were involved.
While not identifying who the agencies are, a source told this newspaper that recently a decision was made to form a special team to deal with drug trafficking. The source said that the team is made up of persons selected from CANU, the Police Narcotics Unit and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
Over 327.7 kilogrammes of cocaine was found concealed in packages of soap power which was in a container at the John Fernandes Limited terminal on Mandela Avenue. The total weight of the drugs found was 300 kilos worth US$10M.
Dennis Jones, an exporter was on Friday charged in relation to the shipment and after pleading guilty was sentenced to four years imprisonment.
The GRA explained in a statement that the drugs were discovered by officers of the GRA Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) and Good Examination Unit (GEU) after the container, packed with Foam and Breeze Laundry detergent, was flagged for secondary examination by the Container Scanner Unit on Monday.
The examination, the GRA said, began the same day at the John Fernandes Limited Terminal in the presence of Jones. “After almost four (4) days of examining the content of the container with the usual diligence, randomly opening over 100 bags of 10kg Foam Laundry Detergent, the find was made upon testing the first sample Breeze Laundry detergent which were packed in sacks that contained sixteen (16) packets of 900g of Breeze Multi Active and Breeze with Comfort Aloe Vera in the back half of the container,” it said.
The GRA added that last Thursday, officers found a sack of Breeze Multi Active Laundry Detergent that “felt unusual” and it was opened and found to contain a clear plastic bag with a white powdery substance that tested positive for cocaine.
CANU was alerted and subsequently came to the scene, at which time further examinations were conducted, it said.
“The officers continued the examination by checking all sacks of the same product and it was found that most of the sacks contained an average of six (6) packets containing the narcotic drug. The total was three hundred and twenty five (325) packets,” it added.
GRA also said that investigations revealed that the commodity was purchased from Bryden and Fernandes Limited and was delivered to Jones’s residence and later trans-shipped to the John Fernandes Limited Terminal for packing into the container. The consignee was identified as Okeke Michael Okwudili, 26 Nacho Shed, Maladi, Niger.
Over the years law enforcement ranks have been exposed to numerous training seminars concerning transnational crimes, particularly drug trafficking.
A security source said that during these sessions, it has always been noted that Guyana is a major trans-shipment point for cocaine and this country’s economy is being fuelled by the drug trade.
According to the source this can be confirmed by the increased level of construction that had been occurring over the last few years. “Look at the huge structures that are going up. Do you think that they are being funded by loans? No they are not,” the source said.
The source pointed out too that that in almost all of the cases it is the small man that gets caught and is charged while the mastermind roams free to continue the trade.
According to the source CANU needs to be complimented for their work as its ranks have been making a significant dent in the drug trade. According to the source there seems to be “some tightening up” in the fight against drug trafficking.
It was indicated to this newspaper that it might be because of the incentives that are given to the ranks for their hard work.
The source said that the authorities are in possession of sophisticated equipment that is enabling them to get certain bits of information.
Asked if CANU should collaborate with the Police Narcotics branch the source said that this might be unwise as the issue of corruption would arise.
“CANU is in the thick of things,” the source said, but went on to explain that there is some amount of distrust in the police and as such it is believed that there would be corruption at some stage. “It has to do with the ease of corruptibility of the narcotics branch,” the source said.
According to the source “CANU seems to be delivering the goods” and as such they should continue the work that they are doing.
The source asked rhetorically when the last time was that the police made a major drug bust. Most police successes were at the airport, it was said, where drugs are discovered on outgoing passengers or in unmarked baggage.
Speaking about the innovativeness of traffickers in concealing the drugs, the source said that when compared with previous years, “the world now is one.”
The source noted that technology and science had aided and will continue to aid narcotics traffickers, and they could now communicate and conduct their research via the internet.
According to the source one should expect the traffickers to come up with even more sophisticated ways of concealing drugs. In addition to coconut milk tins and soap power packages, they have also tried fish, cabbage, rum, pepper sauce, lumber, wigs and suitcases.