Presidential guards for court over sand business raid –sources

Presidential guards and others who acted as enforcers are to be charged following a bewildering attack on an East Bank sand business on Tuesday, sources say.

Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon would only confirm yesterday that at least eight presidential guards were arrested in connection with Tuesday’s early morning attack on Guyana Sandport Inc. Sources say the incident raises serious questions about the vetting of persons who are guarding the president and their moonlighting as enforcers.

“…Information from the police as well as the Presidential Guard Service is being solicited to help the Office of the President [OP] to get a better appreciation of what precisely happened and if indeed the Presidential Guards who have been arrested were involved in improper, illegal, unlawful activity,” Luncheon told reporters at a post-cabinet press briefing yesterday.

Joseph Bhaskaran

He said that while he could confirm that eight or more guards were arrested, he had received no information on likely charges. Efforts yesterday to get comments from senior police officials and the Head of the Presidential Guard were unsuccessful.

Stabroek News was reliably informed that the 14 men, including the presidential guards, who were arrested by police on the Coverden, East Bank Demerara property in the midst of destroying a conveyor system, will be charged before the end of the week. Police are still looking for the others.

Based on the statements received by the police and the evidence seen at the site, the men are to be charged with trespassing, vandalism and damage to property.

This newspaper was told that information has surfaced that more presidential guards were involved in the scheme to sabotage the operations at the site. They apparently were among those who fled in a minibus.

The co-owner of the company, which has been exporting sand and stone for more than two years, is believed to be the mastermind behind a plot to cripple the business so that its rival could control the market. The owner, Joseph Bhaskaran, who yesterday clarified that he is Sri Lankan-born but lived in Canada for a number of years before migrating to Guyana, is insisting that the attack was an attempt to shut him down.

A source close to the investigation told this newspaper that the police have now discovered that the co-owner, who is Brazilian, does not have a work permit though he is a businessman and has been here for many years. This newspaper was also told that the co-owner successfully made himself the sole signatory to the company’s bank account. It was explained to Stabroek News that two women working with the company were the signatories to the account and that Bhaskaran was not even aware of the change until he discovered that more than US$150,000 was unaccounted for.

According to the source, one of the presidential guards is claiming that he was driving by when he saw a ruckus and tried to intervene. However, the other detainees are contradicting that story.

This newspaper was also told yesterday that when the police arrived at the scene, the presidential guards who were manning the gates said that they were handling the matter already and that the responding officers were not needed. However, Bhaskaran objected to this and the police insisted that they were going onto the property to make checks.

Bhaskaran said that now that his former partner is in police custody, police will now be actively investigating the missing money as well. He noted that he had made a report shortly after he discovered that the money was missing.

According to the reports reaching this newspaper, about 30 men, including presidential guards armed with their guns, stormed the Lot 9 property around 2 am. They were equipped with welding sets and acetylene torches, which were to be used to destroy the conveyor system that is used to load and offload sand and stone into boats.

As they were heading to the location, a truck carrying the equipment got stuck in the sand. As a result, they were unable to carry all their equipment onto the property.

Members of the group cuffed and kicked two guards on duty at the time, but one managed to escape and contacted the police before travelling to Bhaskaran’s Soesdyke home, after efforts to contact him by phone were unsuccessful.

The guard after relating what had transpired travelled with the businessman and police to the property where several presidential guards were manning the gates.

From the gates they could see the light coming from the welding torches and persons were seen running up and down inside the compound. The perpetrators were dressed in dark clothing and some had stockings covering their faces including the co owner.

This newspaper had also been told that three weeks ago the co owner successfully obtained an injunction barring Bhaskaran from entering the property. The co owner had moved to the court shortly after he was confronted about the missing money. That case will be heard again next Tuesday.

Given the number of guards involved and the brazenness with which the attack occurred sources say serious questions would be raised of the screening process that presidential guards are put through and whether or not they have been hiring themselves out for enforcer and other duties.

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