– lawyer shipped it from Guyana; to use transcripts in drugs trial
The computer telephonic surveillance equipment, which drug accused Roger Khan reportedly used to intercept the calls of officials and alleged criminals, was shipped from Guyana to his lawyer’s office in New York and is now in the possession of the US government.
According to court papers seen by this newspaper, the piece of specialised equipment was among the items seized from Robert Simels’ office last year.
Questions had been raised as to what had happened to the device which had been discovered in a vehicle Khan and others were in by members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). Secretary of the Defence Board Dr Roger Luncheon had said when quizzed last year that he had no idea where the equipment was.
However, according to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officer Cassandra Jackson, in an affidavit in support of a search warrant executed on Simels’ office, prior to his arrest on witness tampering charges last year the equipment was shipped by the lawyer to his York Avenue, New York office. She said Simels had planned to use conversations recorded on the equipment during Khan’s trial.
Jackson said the information about the equipment was gleaned during recorded conversations between Simels and the government’s confidential source (CS) some months before Simels, his assistant Arianne Irving and Khan were hauled before the court on witness tampering charges arising out of the drug case.
According to Jackson, the investigation revealed that Simels was in possession of illegal eavesdropping equipment. She said during the course of his representation of Khan, Simels referred to various telephone conversations that he intended to introduce at the trial.
Jackson disclosed that the CS informed the DEA that prior to his arrest Khan used a computer while in Guyana to surreptitiously record telephone conversations of individuals. The DEA officer said she believed the conversations referred to by Simels were captured using Khan’s eavesdropping equipment that was in Simels’ possession.
“My belief is corroborated by records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection… According to those records, on or about October 11, 2007, prior to the disclosure of the recorded conversations, equipment identified as a ‘Portable Auto Data Processing Mach[ine]’, was shipped from Guyana to Simels [office],” Jackson said in the affidavit. She said the records also indicated that from October 9, 2007 to October 12, 2007, Simels was in Guyana and that during one of the recorded conversations with the CS, Simels confirmed he had the equipment.
Simels told the CS that he was in “control” of “Roger’s [Khan’s] triangulation equipment” and that it “is in the right hands.”
The CS said he understood the equipment referred to by Simels to be the same equipment used by Khan to intercept telephone conversations. Jackson said she believed while Simels was in Guyana he received Khan’s illegal eavesdropping equipment and shipped it to his office.
The government was granted the permission to seize the equipment and other computers and material from Simels’ office following his arrest and the information is now being sifted through by court-appointed persons.
Last year Simels had claimed that Khan had received permission from the Guyana government permission to purchase the equipment from the Spy Shop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
However, this was subsequently denied by Dr Luncheon.
In a subpoena to the DEA by Simels, dated April 28, 2008, it was stated that following Khan’s arrest, “FBI agent Justin Krider investigated Khan’s purchase of the computer telephonic surveillance equipment from the Spy Shop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and found Khan had permission from the Government of Guyana to purchase and possess this equipment.”
Simels at the time was seeking the testimony and all documents in Krider’s possession as these relate to the surveillance equipment purchased in Florida.
In a background paragraph the subpoena had stated that Khan was alleged to have used the equipment to improperly wiretap various high-ranking officials and others within Guyana in order to maintain his “alleged drug organization.”
Responding to the allegations of granting permission to Khan, Dr Luncheon while admitting that his government did business with Khan denied he ever signed any document authorising him to import the equipment or colluded with him.
“I doubt that in any forum the fact that lands have been sold and leases provided to an individual constitutes the kind of linkage being suggested,” Dr Luncheon had said at the time during a press conference in response to a question on the state being on the verge at one time of granting a large tract of forest to Khan.
At the time he had said that the administration had requested from the US Justice Department information with regard to the transaction, but up to that point had not received any response.
Guyanese first became aware of Khan when he, Haroon Yahya and policeman Sean Belfield were detained on December 4, 2002 by an army patrol and turned over to the police following the discovery of sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment and arms in a pick-up at Good Hope, East Coast Demerara.
When they were caught, Khan and his partners had told law enforcement officials that they were in search of Shawn Brown and the other prison escapees who had fled the Camp Street prison earlier that year. The men were later charged with possession of arms and ammunition and placed on $500,000 bail each.
The charges were subsequently dismissed by Magistrate Jerrick Stephney at the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court the next year.
Stabroek News was told that following the seizure the equipment was confiscated and handed over to the government. It was then passed back to Khan at a later stage and similar equipment was handed to the police under the guise that it was the one that was seized. At one time the army had said that it had turned over the equipment to the police but the police later seemed not to know of its whereabouts. Reports had indicated that the laptop was capable of intercepting and tracing telephone calls made from a landline or a cellular phone and the software was reportedly only sold to governments. At the time, then home affairs minister Ronald Gajraj had said that the use of the instrument did not breach any of the laws of Guyana.
From 1994 when he fled from the US to 2002 when he was caught with the surveillance equipment and arms, Khan had already established himself as businessman and had also secured government contracts working on a building project at the University of Guyana, one of his local attorneys disclosed.
Between 2002-2006 Khan had kept a relatively low profile, although according to one of the statements he had released when local police had set about trying to arrest him, during that time he had been involved in crime-fighting.
His lawyers had told the court in New York that following the February 23, 2002 jailbreak when the escapees went on a killing spree he responded to the crisis, providing financial and logistical support to the government. “During the crime spree in 2002, I worked closely with the crime-fighting sections of the Guyana Police Force and provided them with assistance and information at my own expense.
“My participation was instrumental in curbing crime during this period,” Khan had said in one of his media statements.
The US has since alleged that a group he had set up was responsible for the murders of over 200 people during that period. Apart from the period immediately prior to Khan’s departure from Guyana for Suriname in 2006 because he was being sought by local law enforcers, his only other encounter with the police after the Good Hope incident came when properties owned by him were raided.
According to the subpoena, Khan’s defence is also seeking all annual “country reports” for Guyana and Venezuela between 2001 and 2006 including, among other things, documents, reports, e-mails and facsimiles supporting the content of these reports.
They have also asked for documents related to the results of Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Information System searches for Khan’s various aliases, which are connected to Guyana and those of Guyanese descent.
Khan is charged with an eighteen-count indictment of distribution, importation, and possession of cocaine and engaging as a principal administrator, organiser, and leader of a continuing criminal enterprise in New York and elsewhere. He is accused of heading a powerful, violent, cocaine trafficking organisation out of Guyana. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.