Cops being probed over alleged drug ties

-Eve Leary

Several members of the police force hierarchy are under investigation as a result of allegations of ties between them and the drug trade and police yesterday confirmed that a junior officer has tendered his resignation after being transferred following questioning.

In a statement issued in response to a report in yesterday’s Kaieteur News, on “matters discussed at a Senior Management meeting of the Guyana Police Force,” the force said it felt compelled to update the public on investigations launched. The Kaieteur News report sourced the allegations to Assistant Commissioner Steve Merai, which the force also confirmed in its statement.

Steve Merai

According to police, investigations into the allegations were handed over to the Assistant Commissioner of ‘Law Enforcement’ Seelall Persaud. It said Assistant Commissioner Merai had been asked to provide any evidence he has against the officers and other ranks concerned and their associates, “but has not yet done so.”

However, police said based on the allegations made and investigations carried out, a Junior Officer who was alleged to have been driving a Fortuna motor vehicle, owned by a female that Merai claimed to be a drug dealer, was contacted. The Officer publicly stated that his vehicle was down and he had indeed borrowed the vehicle from a female with whom he had an intimate relationship, police said. He also publicly said that he is not aware that his female companion was a drug dealer. “He has been transferred from the Office of the Commissioner and has since tendered his resignation,” police noted, while adding that investigations into his associates are continuing.

It was also confirmed that a Senior Officer had borrowed a car from a businessman about two weeks before the allegation. “The Officer in question publicly stated that his motor car had developed mechanical problems and he had borrowed a BMW motor car from the businessman whose family he knew well and that he has no knowledge that the businessman is or was a drug dealer,” police said. The Senior Officer has since returned the vehicle to the businessman, while the claims made by Merai about his associates are being investigated.

According to police, Merai had also alleged that three ranks attached to the Tactical Services Unit were providing protection to drug blocks and that they owned several cars. One of the ranks, a Corporal, was contacted and at CID Headquarters he produced documents showing that his wife works at a local commercial bank and had taken a loan from the bank to buy the car he was using. He has no other vehicle.

“It was not established that any vehicles were owned by the other ranks, however, other investigations are ongoing into the allegations of their associations even though specifics have not been provided,” the statement noted.

Meanwhile, police also noted that Merai has been written to by the Commissioner of Police Henry Greene to provide evidence to the Criminal Investigation Department of the allegations he has made.

“The Guyana Police Force wishes to state that its resolve against drugs, drug dealers and criminal elements remains strong, and it remains a strong cohesive Force. Elements of the Force found in wrongdoing will continue to be dealt with appropriately. Contrary to the views of some, no cover is provided for these elements. The records of errant ranks are there to show,” it added.

Several years ago, Merai himself had been accused of extorting money from a drug dealer but the investigation eventually petered out.

A recording was circulated to several media outlets in June, 2007 and Merai was heard demanding money from the businessman. He later admitted to this newspaper that it was indeed his voice on the tape but that the recording was a collection of several conversations. Police, in a statement, had acknowledged receiving a copy of the tape as well as a transcript of the taped conversation and a letter.

The police said the letter had levelled certain allegations against Merai and an investigation had been launched.

When this newspaper asked Merai to explain his statements on the tape, he said he had been trying to induce the businessman to divulge further details about the drug deal he was involved in so that he could build a case against him. Merai had also said the tape had been made by a group of drug dealers who had been angered by his tough stance against drug trafficking. He also said the men had recently met and planned to kill him.

Although Merai was relieved of duties as the coordinator of the Impact Patrol following the allegations, he remained in charge of ministerial security patrols. In response to a query about why Merai was allowed to retain this post, Greene replied at the time that being at the Impact Base meant Merai had to interface with the public and this was not good in light of the allegations.

He said the officer had also been removed a few weeks before the tape surfaced since he had been charged with making a wrongful arrest.

SN confirmed that the businessman in the recording had been deported from the US in 1999 after serving time for possession of marijuana, impersonation, possession of firearms and trafficking in cocaine. He had been incarcerated in the Georgia Correctional Centre in the US.

According to the recordings, the businessman had collected a delivery of cocaine from another man who resides on the West Demerara, which had been shipped by a Guyanese living in Venezuela. After collecting the narcotics the businessman had allegedly refused to pay for it and the Venezuelan man and his West Demerara accomplice had reportedly contacted Merai asking him to ensure that the businessman paid up.

Merai was heard on the tape demanding US$60,000 from the businessman to settle the case. Merai had told this newspaper that when he heard about the drug deal he approached the West Demerara man who admitted that the Georgetown businessman owed him US$710,000 for a shipment of cocaine, but was hiding and not paying up.

Merai said he doubted the West Demerara man at first, as he knew the Georgetown businessman to be law-abiding; however, he said when he approached the businessman with the allegations, after denying involvement the man then offered him US$50,000 as a first payment, following which he [Merai] asked him why not US$60,000.

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