Retired army major David Clarke, who is expected to be one of the main witnesses for the prosecution in drug accused’s Roger Khan trial and reportedly a target to be intimidated in the witness tampering allegation, is sitting in a New York jail, having been charged with two counts of drug trafficking.
It is not clear whether Clarke has been tried on the charges or has entered into a plea bargain for a light sentence in return for being a state witness, since all information on his case has been under seal.
However, according to the indictment on the first charge, Clarke, his brother Hubert Clarke called ‘Dun Dun’ and Hubert’s girlfriend, Shelly Mcqune, between October 2003 and April 5, 2005, together with others, did knowingly and intentionally, conspire to import more than five kilogrammes of cocaine into the US. On the second charge, between the same dates, they also conspired to distribute the cocaine in the US.
Prior to his retirement, Clarke had headed ‘Operation Tourniquet’, which was established on June 5, 2002 as part of the Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) joint operations with the police to arrest the wave of criminal activity emanating from Buxton, following the February 23, 2002 jail break. Clarke was also one of the persons Khan and his attorneys, Robert Simels and Arianne Irving, had allegedly attempted to intimidate and “neutralise” resulting in them being hauled before the courts last year on witness-tampering charges.
Last year, Stabroek News had contacted GDF Public Relations Officer Woman Colonel Windee Algernon and enquired about Clarke. She had said that he had retired. She had explained that while he might not have reached the age of retirement there was a system in the army where an officer could retire based on the number of years served. However, Col Algernon could not say when he retired; whether Clarke was asked to retire early or if he had opted for same.
Clarke was charged shortly after Khan was described as a drug trafficker in the 2006 US drug report. When the report was published, Khan had made “assorted accusations” against Clarke and others at a meeting in March 2006 with US officials at the Ocean View Hotel. He had sought to provide “evidence” that Clarke had worked in concert with Shawn Brown, one of the five February 23, 2002 prison escapees. He had alleged that during Clarke’s tenure at the head of ‘Operation Tourniquet’ he was in league with Brown, who was responsible for kidnapping former US diplomat Stephen Lesniak in April 2003.
Following his arrest in Trinidad in June 2006 and his subsequent indictment on drug charges, Khan has sought to deny that he and Clarke could have been co-conspirators in exporting drugs, arguing that he had exposed the former officer’s links to the criminal enterprise in Buxton.
Meanwhile, in the first meeting between Simels and the US government’s confidential source (CS), last year before he and the others were charged with witness tampering, Simels had allegedly told the CS that prosecutors had been saying for almost two years that the case against Khan was a “straightforward drug case.”
However, he said, about one month before they were expected to go to trial in April last year “…they come with a whole new theory of the case. This new theory of the case is everything about Roger’s phantom gang as they put it, it should be evidence because they want to prove that while he started out as a patriot, he then used that phantom force to help him in the drug business, and that he would murder rivals.”
According to a typed record of that conversation, made by the US government and seen by this newspaper, Simels is reported to have told the CS that the government was alleging that Khan murdered Dave Persaud, who was killed in front of Palm Court Restaurant and Bar, and boxing coach Donald Allison.
CS: “Why did they make the change?”
Simels: “Well, we didn’t know it but we found out that David Clarke is now telling them [that] Roger is a murdering thug…”
Simels further told the CS that the prosecution knew the defence would have made several allegations about Clarke during his tenure in Buxton, the main one being that he acted in concert with the criminals in the village.
The lawyer said in the conversation that because of the prosecution’s theory the defence had to let the jury know during the trial what Guyana was like because people in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island could “never fathom what goes on there [Guyana].”
Simels: “As I said to the judge this is not [US President Barack] Obama and [US Secretary of State] Hillary [Clinton] saying bad things about each other. Down there when that happens they just kill each other…”
The lawyer then told the CS that Khan told him he had to find him (the CS) to help demonstrate to the jury what happened in Guyana.
CS: “But how important really is David Clarke to this case?”
Simels: “He is everything to their case now. Their whole case is based upon him.”
CS: “But there’s nothing which can be done about this guy, you’re saying?”
Simels noted that Clarke would be the only prosecution witness who could actually say he spoke to Khan during the time Khan reportedly committed the offences.
Simels: “…It would be helpful if you could sort of tell me what you do know about him, how you came to meet David Clarke or what you came to know about Roger, how you met Roger. Could you like give me a… your version, not Roger’s version which is sometimes a little…”
The CS related to Simels that he had a cousin, who is now serving 20 years in a US jail for a drive-by shooting, who once worked for Khan and it was while he was attempting to assist his cousin that he was eventually introduced to the “boss.” He said that while in 2003 he knew of Khan and would help Khan from time to time it was in 2005, that “I met the director.”
The CS said it was believed that the escapees and their cohorts were being supported by elements of the military in Buxton but he had no firsthand knowledge of that.
Simels: “And did you know David Clarke?”
CS: “Yes I knew the guy… because of the fact he is related to Donald Allison. Donald Allison is my neighbour.”
Simels: “When you said ‘boss’ earlier were you talking about Roger?”
CS: “Yea, the boss so… he ran things.”
The CS said he and Clarke’s brother, Hubert, whom Simels referred to as ‘Dumb Dumb’ instead of ‘Dun Dun’, were schoolmates and that the brothers were from Agricola.
According to the CS, he knew Clarke was in charge of the operation in Buxton while he was captain.
Asked by Simels if he knew whether Clarke was favourable to the people in Buxton the CS said yes.
CS: “Well yea, I would take it that way. Because I mean he was in charge, these guys were able to come out, do certain things and get back into Buxton, somebody had to be sanctioning it. Somebody had to be sanctioning it, and it had to be somebody who was very much at the scene. Because it’s the only way I could have seen them doing that.”
In answer to Simels, the CS said he knew when Khan was arrested with the spy equipment but he did not speak to Clarke during that period and while he saw his former school mate Hubert they did not speak as Hubert had made some money and he was like “God almighty, you know, and I am just a little guy.”
Irving, who was also present during the conversation, said Khan had told them that elements of the military would always delay the police entrance to Buxton whenever a crime was committed.
Irving: “…Roger explained that the military would kind of create some sort of like a diversion because he described it as… Agricola is like a road that goes right to Buxton and there is a cane field also. So he kind of described it that the military… would create some sort of diversion on the road to delay the police from entering Buxton so that those individuals they were looking for were able to sneak out through the cane fields into Agricola…”
The CS was asked if he knew anything about that.
CS: “Alright, I mean I’ve never witnessed it firsthand. But what I can say is that those are the reports… I mean both Roger and myself, other guys around him, those are the reports that keeping coming in, right.”
The CS said he not only knew David and Hubert but he also knew their mother and an aunt.
‘Not really a jail’
Irving asked the CS if he knew Clarke was in the US and he said while they suspected they never had proof. He said some friends had told him that Clarke would appear on some online messenger on the internet and his status message was ‘home away from home.’
Simels: “Well, I went over to the jail where he’s at. Not really a jail, jail, but it’s a…”
CS: “It’s a nice area?”
Simels: “…nicer jail. It’s a building. He’s got like you said internet access… He can make a lot of calls.”
CS: “But does he get to come out on the road and… or he doesn’t have that kind of access?”
Simels: “Right, it’s not like a jail, jail.”
CS: “Could he like come out on the road and…”
Simels: “I don’t think so. And I think he would be afraid to come out, but they had him hidden there, and I went to see him. And I assume it’s him, I described him to Roger. He’s about maybe 5’9”, 5’10” dark skin, maybe late 40s, soft spoken. And I said to him ‘you’re David Clarke’ and I mentioned who I was and he said, ‘I don’t want to talk to you.’ So I would assume it was not a mistake.”
The CS was asked if he knew Clarke’s girlfriend.
CS: “No. Married man. This guy is married, he shouldn’t have a girlfriend. Leave that for me.”
Irving: “I hear it’s a regular thing in Guyana. I think Roger has a couple of girlfriends.”
The CS said that he was sorry Clarke was locked away but Simels told him that Clarke had to be in touch with his girlfriend, whom he named and that he wanted to find his ex-wife in Guyana and instructed the CS to find her.
Simels told the CS that he provided information to some of Khan’s former associates, most of them former police officers, but they were unable to find the woman. The CS told him that the former associates might be scared but they forgot all Khan did for them.
The CS then told Simels that he was introduced to a government official, whom he named, by Khan in 2005, and Simels asked if during the meeting Clarke’s name was mentioned.
Simels: “Think about it as you’re reflecting about whether or not in your meeting with [the official], ever David Clarke was one of the subjects. Because around 2005 when he got involved with Roger is around the time Clarke was recalled by [President] Bharrat [Jagdeo].”
President Jagdeo, who is the Minister of Defence, had recalled Clarke from a training course in the USA, for which the GDF had selected him. The officer was halfway through the course when he was ordered to return to Guyana.
Stabroek News was told at that time that in the case of training overseas, except for officers of the rank of colonel and above, the convention was that the selection was made at the level of the GDF, but that the Minister of Defence had the final authority.
Reports at that time had also indicated that it was not the practice for the GDF to submit a list of officers sent for training overseas to the Defence Board, and it was a mystery as to how President Jagdeo knew the officer had been sent on a training course in the USA.
Back in May 2003, the then captain was the only officer who President Jagdeo refused to promote from a long list of officers recommended for promotion. While the final authority for promotions rests with the Defence Board, before the move by the President in 2003 recommendations from the army had been accepted with no rejections.
The then captain was recommended by a promotions panel chaired by the then chief of staff, Brigadier Michael Atherly, based on the recommendation of his battalion commander. The commander’s recommendation was said to be based on the ex-officer’s attitude and performance in his substantive rank, his suitability for promotion to higher rank and authority as well as his suitability for retention in the army. That assessment was reached based on a recommendation of a promotion panel at the battalion level, which reviewed the ex-officer’s annual confidential reports and assessed his suitability.
When President Jagdeo had refused to promote Clarke, senior army sources at that time had told Stabroek News that nothing in the man’s record indicated that he had behaved in an inappropriate manner either during his assignment in Buxton or in the other locations at which he was stationed.
However, this was not the picture Roger Khan painted in a motion he filed through his lawyers.
That motion alleged that the then officer was so involved in criminal activities in Buxton that he delayed finding Lesniak, even though information about the location of the kidnapped man was provided.
The US has since sought to disallow any evidence about Clarke’s alleged criminal activities from the trial as they see it as “self serving” for Khan.
While the prosecution has argued that any involvement of Khan in the diplomat’s release was irrelevant to the drug case, Khan’s lawyers had stated in the motion: “… the relevance of evidence pertaining to the Lesniak kidnapping is broader than the government addresses.”