Three Delta passengers held, released after cocaine in rolling pins false alarm

A misleading tip to airport officials or the mistaken suspicion by them that there was cocaine in rolling pins in their luggage saw three hapless passengers removed from a Delta Airlines flight bound for New York early yesterday morning.

The passengers, who this newspaper understands are relatives, were apparently taken into custody while their luggage was searched and extensive tests carried out on the kitchen implements they were taking to the US. However, they were subsequently released from custody after the several tests, which were conducted both at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri and in Georgetown, failed to find any trace of the illegal drug. It was not clear exactly what led to the suspicion or who might have tipped the authorities.

Stabroek News was unable to make contact with any of the passengers and was told that they were scheduled to leave the country this morning on the same flight which was subsequently rescheduled.

In an invited comment, Captain Gerry Gouveia, Chief Executive Officer of Roraima Group of Companies, the handling agent for Delta in Guyana, confirmed the incident but quickly pointed out that nothing was found. He said that the tests conducted were negative.

According to Gouveia, the subsequent rescheduling of the said flight was not connected to the incident. He explained that the aircraft developed mechanical problems.

In recent times cocaine concealed in suitcases has managed to escape detection by staff at the airport but was intercepted on arrival in the United States.

On January 12, 50 pounds of cocaine were discovered at the JKF International Airport, New York packed in a pink suitcase. Dorothy Sears had checked-in the suitcase at the Timehri airport but she was arrested on arrival in the US. Sears had admitted that she had checked-in the pink suitcase and stated that she had been instructed by an individual in Guyana not to pick up the bag.

The woman told US authorities that she was to be paid US$6,000 for checking-in the suitcase by an individual in Guyana.

She said she thought initially the suitcase had marijuana but when she received it, she believed it contained cocaine because of its weight and the amount of money she was to receive.

Four persons were subsequently charged with conspiring with Sears but two of them – Maurice Smith and Roderick Peterkin – have since had their charge discharged after a Full Court agreed that there was some bias on the part of Director of Public Prosecutions Shalimar Ali-Hack. A third defendant Shemika Tennant is also challenging the decision to charge her in the High Court.

Less than five months later on June 2, a woman, Chandinee Segobind, checked in a suitcase filled with cocaine packed in Kerry Gold milk packets, which was not detected by Timehri airport security, the police or the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU). The suitcase filled with cocaine left the airport on a Delta flight and was intercepted at the JKF Airport.

Head of CANU James Singh in commenting on this latest case had said that suspects have been identified but no arrests have yet been made.

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