PNCR leader Robert Corbin has expressed concern about how the surveillance equipment, allegedly used by indicted businessman Roger Khan to intercept the calls of officials and suspected criminals here, ended up in the possession of the businessman’s lawyer in New York.
“I don’t think the government has the legitimacy or the morality to question anyone’s association with drug lords in this country,” Corbin told reporters at his party’s weekly briefing, saying that in light of the revelation, President Bharrat Jagdeo ought to be “ashamed” to draw associations between political parties and drug lords.
On Sunday at Babu John, Port Mourant, Jagdeo, addressing party members and supporters, suggested that someone implicated in a “cocaine in pepper sauce” bust was a major financier of the Alliance For Change (AFC). The AFC has since condemned the president’s “reckless” comments, while urging him to provide any information he had to the police.
According to court papers seen by Stabroek News, the specialised telephonic equipment allegedly used by Khan was among the items seized from the office of Khan’s lawyer Robert Simels, who is now facing witness tampering charges in the US. Questions had been raised as to what had happened to the equipment, which had been discovered in a vehicle Khan and others were in by members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). It has since been alleged that Khan used the equipment to improperly wiretap various high-ranking officials and others within Guyana in order to maintain his drug empire.
Secretary of the Defence Board Dr Roger Luncheon had maintained that he had no idea where the equipment was.
Corbin recalled that the device had been the subject of much comment by both the local media and the PNCR and he questioned how it ended up in the U.S. He said he thought that either the security forces had taken charge of the equipment or that it was in the possession of a government official. “Did they facilitate this laptop going to aid Roger Khan?” he asked.
In an affidavit in support of a search warrant executed on Simels’ office, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officer Cassandra Jackson said 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 US government’s confidential source some months before Simels, his assistant Arianne Irving and Khan were hauled before the court on witness tampering charges arising out of Khan’s indictment on trafficking cocaine into the US. The government’s source informed the DEA that prior to his arrest Khan used a computer while in Guyana to surreptitiously record telephone conversations of individuals. Jackson said she believed the conversations referred to by Simels were captured using Khan’s eavesdropping equipment that was in his possession. Records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, show that on or about October 11, 2007, prior to the disclosure of the recorded conversations, equipment identified as a ‘Portable Auto Data Processing Machine’ was shipped from Guyana to Simels. Jackson 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 source had confirmed he had the equipment.
The US government was subsequently granted 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 said that Khan had received permission from the Guyana government 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, dated April 28, 2008, Simels 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.
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.