In a dramatic turn of events police at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport yesterday morning intercepted two suitcases with firearms, ammunition, two fragmentation grenades, two detonators and 38 kilogrammes of compressed marijuana.
The suitcases were intercepted in the outgoing area while a flight destined for Barbados and Antigua was being processed.
Authorities at the Timehri Airport have seldom nabbed drug shipments leaving this country – several of which were later intercepted overseas.
In a statement last evening the police said that around 11:55 am yesterday ranks of the police narcotics branch and the special constabulary on duty at the airport intercepted two suitcases.
According to the statement the suitcases contained 14 parcels of compressed marijuana with a total weight of 38 kilogrammes, 636 grams, three .38 revolvers, 55 rounds of .38 ammunition, two rounds of .357 ammunition, two fragmentation grenades and two detonators.
Two men and a woman have been arrested and are in police custody assisting with the investigations, the police statement said. Stabroek News was told by sources at the airport that the woman in custody is a school teacher from Berbice. She was on her way to Barbados. Reports are that the woman was an outgoing passenger on a LIAT flight and had already checked in her suitcase with her name tagged on it. She had boarded the aircraft when police officers discovered that two other suitcases with her name showed up. The suitcases were checked and the items mentioned above were found inside. The airport sources said that whoever was attempting to export the items did not conceal them, properly in the suitcase. Stabroek News understands that the authorities have been looking into the possibility that someone trying to export the drugs and weapons used the woman’s name. The police have arrested two men also and sources told this newspaper that they might be airport workers.
If indeed the woman’s name was used to tag the suitcases to traffic the illegal items it is not the first time this has happened. Back in 2004 the then Deputy Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Col Chabilall Ramsarup was detained by US Immigration and Customs authorities at Miami International Airport when a bag which had been corruptly tagged with his name was found to contain cocaine. The Colonel was allowed to proceed on his journey after the US investigators determined that he had no knowledge of the bag and a Guyanese man was arrested when he claimed the bag as his. Col Ramsarup said that he was not informed of the name of the person who had claimed the bag or the contents of the bag. Recently there were two other cases of a similar nature, but the drugs were detected before the luggage left Guyana.
At the time of Ramsarup’s case the airline in question – the now defunct BWIA -had assured this newspaper that some measures were put in place to prevent a recurrence. The airline also noted that passengers themselves should take steps to prevent their luggage being tampered with by padlocking them and insisting that they are informed of the weight of their checked luggage and in some cases that it be plastic-wrapped. Observ-ers have argued that there is need for a tightening of the measures in place at the airport as the surveillance cameras to scan the airport were not always picking up drug shipments leaving Guyana.
Only recently the United States law enforcement authorities smashed a drug organization involving workers at the JFK Airport in New York and with Guyana and Trinidad connections who facilitated the shipment of cocaine from Georgetown and Port of Spain. Five airport workers were charged and are currently before a New York court. The US had argued that based upon evidence the workers appeared to have had excellent contacts with dealers in Guyana and Trinidad who they assisted in shipping large quantities of cocaine through the airport.
The August 1 interception of 35 kilogrammes of cocaine originating from Guyana on a Travelspan flight pointed to the drug ring. It is not the first time persons have been caught trying to export or import drugs and weapons through the Cheddi Jagan airport.
Last year February a quantity of ammunition, a sub-machine gun, a 9mm pistol and an AK 47 were discovered among party items in a container at the CJIA. Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit and airport officials had found the AK-47, a Lugar sub-machine gun and a 9 mm Glock Pistol together with 93 rounds of ammunition.
These items were part of incoming cargo on North American Airlines Flight 091, shipped via Caribbean Cargo. The arms were found during a routine search, Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority had said in a press release at the time.