Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) officials yesterday held a confrontation with two of the suspects in the shipments of cocaine in pepper sauce cartons and they were told that their only viable option was to cooperate.
While the suspects have continued to deny responsibility for the shipments seized last month in Canada and the US Virgin Islands, CANU sources say that one of the two is a key figure in the East Coast cocaine trafficking ring.
The sources say this man has come under increasing pressure as he is exposed and vulnerable to those who are now expecting reimbursement for their losses from the busted shipments.
The suspects, who were accompanied by their lawyer, were told that CANU would only be able to help them if they told everything that they knew about the shipments. One of the suspects professed that he was scared for his life because he was linked to information on other suspects.
The CANU sources say the likelihood of charges against the duo is dependent on information from the Canadian authorities so that a solid case could be made out here against them. Canadian law enforcement officials are due here next week and this is seen as a key step in enhancing cooperation between the anti-narcotics agencies in the two jurisdictions.
CANU sources acknowledge that thus far information has not been forthcoming from the Canadian authorities and this may in part be due to the weak cooperation bet-ween the two sides in the last decade or so. CANU has however been supplying information on all of the suspects it reeled in during the current probe and the Canadian authorities have been gratified at this.
The imminent visit by the Canadians will lay the ground work for closer ties in the fight against drugs, sources say.
Thus far, CANU has questioned the key players in the organization that smuggled 376 kilos of cocaine in the pepper sauce cartons. One shipment was busted on December 8 in New Brunswick, Canada and the other was nabbed on December 24 in St Croix, the US Virgin Islands after Canadian authorities tipped off the US DEA.
Two people that CANU had sought in this matter, Reginald Rodrigues and Orlando Watson, are believed to have fled the country backtrack. Rodrigues was thought to have made it to Suriname but authorities now believe he is in Venezuela and local authorities have exchanged the relevant information with their counterparts in Caracas. Watson is believed to be in Suriname.
CANU also said that Rodrigues’ wife Edna turned herself in yesterday for questioning and was accompanied by her lawyer.
Her name had been mentioned in connection with the search for her husband and she told the authorities that she had nothing to do with the drug shipment and had been spending time with her relatives until the storm blew over. CANU sources say Edna Rodrigues co-operated fully yesterday and CANU wanted to emphasise that it did not have any further interest in her.
Another person of interest, Inderpaul Doodnauth has been in contact with CANU. His brother, Mahendrapal was arrested in Canada in relation to the New Brunswick shipment. Two others who co-run a store in Georgetown have also been in contact with CANU. One of the two was also being questioned in relation to a shipment of timber with cocaine seized in the Caribbean last year.
The other, a deportee, is believed to have sourced the cocaine that was stuffed into the dividers of the cartons.
While no charges have yet been laid and none of the drug shipments was intercepted here, CANU is confident that it has upturned the major drug supply network headquartered on the East Coast.
Meanwhile, CANU is still in contact with the prime suspect in the Miami cocaine-in-furniture bust and are trying to tease out a tangible link to the suspected prime mover behind this shipment.
This West Demerara businessman has long been suspected of involvement with the drug business and despite several run-ins with the law enforcement authorities has managed to stay out of trouble and place himself at the centre of high-profile public events in the region.
In late December, 170 kilos of cocaine were found in furniture at Port Miami. The furniture had been loaded here and the shipper, Nymrod Singh was subsequently held in Bartica.