Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon yesterday said he is sure that the police have some evidence to prove that the surveillance equipment they have in their possession is that which was seized from drug accused Roger Khan.
However, he added, the notion that it could have been switched with another can’t be dispensed with “because apparently there is a piece of equipment that has surfaced as the seized equipment.”
Dr Luncheon, who is also head of the Defence Board, told Stabroek News that should the equipment be produced in a US court as evidence then prosecutors would have to tell the court that it was indeed the very equipment that was seized from a vehicle in which Khan and others were at Good Hope, East Coast Demerara.
He also contended that when he said last year he did not know where the equipment was, what he really meant was that he did not know at what police location it was being kept.
The US government has said it seized the surveillance equipment owned by Khan, an alleged drug kingpin, after it was shipped to his lawyer’s New York office but President Bharrat Jagdeo on Monday said that Commissioner of Police Henry Greene is maintaining that local authorities have the equipment in their custody.
“He [Greene] said we have it in our possession,” Jagdeo told a news conference, adding: “I asked him and he said that we have the equipment here.”
Stabroek News was told that surveillance equipment was confiscated from Khan when he was arrested in 2002 and handed over to the government. It was then passed back to Khan at a later stage, Stabroek News understands, while similar equipment was handed back to the police under the guise that it was what was originally seized. This newspaper was also later informed that the equipment could not have been turned on and it was basically a laptop and there was no way the police could have ascertained if it indeed worked.
At one time the army had said that it had turned over the equipment to the police but the police later indicated it did not 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. The then Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj had said that the use of the equipment did not breach any of the laws of Guyana.
“The commissioner of police who heads the entity which is responsible for safeguarding evidence in criminal matters has confirmed that the police has the seized equipment from the Roger Khan Good Hope saga in their possession,” Dr Luncheon maintained when questioned by Stabroek News yesterday.
This newspaper then asked Dr Luncheon if he believed that the equipment could have been switched and he had this to say: “That would be an evidential matter because it doesn’t just concern the media, it concerns prosecutors, it concerns the police. Certainly if my understanding about safeguarding the evidence trail remains applicable, it would have been identified, whether you are going to put a little scratch on it or something, but it would have been identified at the time it was seized. Subsequently whether it is introduced as evidence in court or wherever, we have to prove that exhibit A is the same equipment that was seized in the car that was kept at wherever and is now being brought to court.”
However, he did not entirely dismiss the idea that the equipment could have been switched and the one in the US is the real one.
“I think it is a routine matter in satisfying ourselves that this piece of evidence remains the same evidence. The whole thing that it could have been switched and all of these different things, you can’t dispense with that because apparently there is a piece of equipment that has surfaced as the seized equipment. To my mind it is only the police would be in a position to pronounce today, which they have, and to have the courts verify when it is presented as evidence that indeed that which was seized and given some way of recognition is precisely what is before the court.”
And Dr Luncheon said that it is hardly likely that there would be any paper trail on how or when the equipment the US government claimed it was shipped out.
When asked he said: “Well it is kind of difficult to know what was shipped out comrade… Let’s assume a worst case scenario that it is an old criminal who thief the thing, you think he go to the GRA and say I am shipping the thing that Roger Khan had at Good Hope? He go doctor the thing and dress it up and put on collar and tie and make it look nice.”
Dr Luncheon who last year admitted that his government did business with Khan had denied that he ever signed any document authorising the businessman to import the equipment or colluded with him.
At that time he had maintained that he had no idea where the equipment was but now he says he knows it was in police custody but what he did not know was in which station it was.
Stabroek News asked, “Dr Luncheon you said last year you don’t know where the equipment was, didn’t you know the police had it?” and he answered: “No, no, no, the decision about where it was… I still don’t know where it is, I know it is in the police possession. I can’t tell you where it is, I do know it is in the police possession. But if the police say it is at Brickdam, Eve Leary, Kitty, there are so many places where evidence is kept so it is hard to say where it is and I wouldn’t want to go and say it is a certain place and somebody say, heavens forbid, it is not there I would just be contributing to all sorts of sensationalism but I know it is in the police possession and Henry Greene has vindicated me, I believe in 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 New York office of his attorney Robert Simels during an investigation. Simels 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 2002 in a vehicle Khan and others were in by members of the Guyana Defence Force’s (GDF) Intelligence Unit. It has since been alleged that Khan used the equipment to improperly wiretap the calls of various high-ranking officials and others within Guyana in order to maintain his operations.
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 conspiracy to import 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’s 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.
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, an allegation the government had denied.