In the backdrop of allegations in a US court that drug-indicted businessman Roger Khan had ordered the slaying of cyclist Davendra Persaud, a police source here says they were aware that the killing was related to narcotics but had no evidence.
Local police had previously never mentioned a drug tie during the investigation of Persaud’s murder back in 2004, but police sources said such information was available to investigators from the beginning. Persaud’s execution, like many others in recent years, has gone unsolved by the police and with very little information on the motive behind it.
At the time of Persaud’s killing, Khan was yet to publicly declare himself a crime fighter as he did in mid-2006, but he was suspected to be involved in drug trafficking and had already faced the courts over having in his possession a cache of arms and ammunition in 2002.
Speaking to Stabroek News on Friday, a police officer who was close to the investigation at the time, but has since been elevated in rank, said days after Persaud’s murder at Palm Court, investigators had received reports that Khan was behind the shooting. “But like all other things we had no evidence so there was little we could do,” the officer who spoke under condition of strict anonymity said. It is unclear if Khan was ever questioned in the investigation.
The police source told Stabroek News that from the outset police suspected drugs were involved in the execution of Persaud, who had been previously charged here with drug trafficking. “The talk around was that he did not pay his dues so he was gunned down. …you know how the drugs men behave, if you don’t pay up they take you out,” the police officer said.
Asked whether they knew Persaud was a cooperating witness for the US at the time, the officer said no, but reasoned that his superiors might have been aware.
“There were things then I did not know and people do not tell you everything sometimes,” the officer said, acknowledging that the US could have been using Persaud without informing local law enforcement.
In one of the most shocking revelations since Khan’s indictment on drug-smuggling charges, the US government last Thursday alleged that he had ordered the executions of Persaud, as well as several of its informants and other drug dealers. The US did not name the informants, who were described as cooperating witnesses, but sources said they might have been the five men killed on Diwali night on Robb Street in 2002. The revelations were made in the Eastern District Court of New York after Khan’s attorneys got hold of a sealed confidential document, which contained an interview between Persaud and the US government in relation to a narcotics case against another Guyanese Delven Adams, who was allegedly a member of Khan’s organisation.
In a letter dated April 24, and addressed to Justice Dora Irizarry, US Attorney Benton Campbell said he was apprising the court of an issue that the government will raise at a status conference. Campbell said that as part of Khan’s lawyers’ opposition to the US government’s motion for an anonymous jury, they attached several exhibits. One of these was a report from the US Customs Service, now Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), of an interview with Persaud. Campbell said this report was an official and confidential internal ICE document, used for investigative purposes, that was disclosed by the government to defence counsel at trial in a case against Adams and others.
Adams was busted in the US with drugs in 2004. According to Campbell, the report and some other material were disclosed to defence counsel in that trial pursuant to Rule 806 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, because it could be used to impeach Persaud, whose statements were admitted as co-conspirator statements through other witnesses. Campbell said the US government satisfying its obligations, however, did not entitle defendants to file or otherwise disseminate that material outside the litigation. He argued that in the Adams trial, the government had serious concerns about witness safety, in large part because Persaud’s testimony as well as testimony from 3,500 material witnesses implicated various individuals in Khan’s organisation.
However, Campbell alleged that Persaud, who was a co-conspirator of Khan, the Adams’ trial defendants, and the government’s cooperating witnesses in the Adams’ case, was gunned down in Guyana on Khan’s orders, as Khan perceived that Persaud was cooperating with the US government. “In an effort to protect witnesses, Judge Frederic Block ordered the defence attorneys in that case not to disseminate (information on the 3,500 material witnesses) to anyone other than their clients. Unfortunately, Judge Block’s order was violated – as defence counsel in this case has possession of this Customs report. The government did not provide this report to defence counsel in this case, and it was only disseminated in the Adams case,” Campbell wrote to the judge. He said the US government was writing to inform the court of the issue, and to request the court to inquire of Khan’s lawyers at the next status conference: how, from whom, and when they obtained the report. The government also wanted to know whether they have obtained any of the statements of the 3,500 material witnesses disseminated at the Adams trial; and whether they had disseminated any of this to anyone else. “We further request that the court order the prompt return to the government of any such material in the defence’s possession – including all copies they have made of such material,” Campbell requested.
He said while Khan’s lawyers might not have been aware of Judge Block’s order, this inquiry was important not only because a court order was violated, but because the potential danger to witnesses and their families in this case could not be overstated. “It is imperative that the government has complete knowledge of the full scope of the information disseminated about its prior witnesses, so as to take necessary safety precautions,” Campbell stated.
Khan’s lead attorney, Robert Simels in a response, told the court that the documents were obtained from the clerk’s office on March 31, this year. Simels said following the court appearance in this case his associate requested an opportunity to obtain a copy of the criminal complaint against an individual named Brentnoll Hooper in the file entitled US vs. Adams.
Khan is facing 18 charges for conspiring to import cocaine into the US. He had declared himself back in 2006, before he was arrested by US law enforcement officials, as a crime fighter who used his own resources to hunt down criminals. According to one of the several statements, he had issued while on the run from local lawmen, Khan revealed that he employed a network of ex-convicts and former policemen to do his work.
Persaud was gunned down at Palm Court in October 2004. He was shot close to 15 times, in what appeared to be an organised hit, orchestrated by a gang of four.
Persaud had been charged locally in relation to drugs and later became an informant for the US government. Reports were that four men, two of whom were wearing masks, turned up at the Main Street bar in a white Toyota Sprinter car registration number PJJ 1767 a little before 10 pm. Two men remained in the car, another stood guard at the gate, while one went up to Persaud and shot him. The gunman reportedly stood over him and opened fire at close range. Police had arrested a number of persons for questioning, but they were all released.